Tour of South China Sea shortened to one race
The Tour of South China Sea has been drastically shortened this year to just a single 80-kilometre, 10-lap race on Tsing Yi Island because of organisational complications thrown up by the Asian Games.
The tour is normally held over seven stages of about 100km each on various routes through Guangdong, with one or two stages in Hong Kong before ending in Macau.
Organisers said this year's race was cut because approval for the riders to race in Guangdong had not been forthcoming from mainland authorities, partly because of security measures for the Asian Games in Guangzhou last month.
Last year, the tour was cancelled because it clashed with the East Asian Games in Hong Kong.
'We felt that, for the sake of continuity, we needed to stage the race in at least an abbreviated form rather than not at all,' said Walter Yue Ka-lok, executive director of the Hong Kong Cycling Association. 'Letting two years go by without a race might have damaged the long-term future of the event.'
The race was first held in 1996.
Veteran Wong Kam-po will lead the six-strong Hong Kong team on Sunday and expects a strong showing from 19-year-old Cheung King-lok.
'He is very strong on the road and his recent success at the Asian Games will boost his confidence,' said Wong, 37, who claimed his third Asian Games gold medal in the road race in Guangzhou and his first silver in the points race. 'I'll probably stay in the peloton to cover him so that he can try to win the race.'
Cheung won two silver medals in Guangzhou - in the individual and team pursuit.
The other members of the team are Cheung King-wai, Kwok Ho-ting, Yeung Ying-hon and Choi Ki-ho.
Wong's focus remains qualifying for the road race at the 2012 London Olympics and he said he was considering going professional.
'There are more competition opportunities on a professional team rather than when just riding for Hong Kong. Also, they have some very good riders who will be able to help me achieve good results.'