Multiple Asian champion Wang Kam Po might have recently retired but Hong Kong will not be left without a cycling star as Choi Ki Ho is coming of age sooner than he expected himself. The 21-year-old is the current super star of the Asia Tour as he just added stage 1 the Tour of Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho to his already remarkable collection of performances since the beginning of November: 3rd overall at the Tour of Taihu Lakes in China, overall winner (plus one stage) of the Tour of Fuzhou, also in China, overall winner (plus a mountain stage) of the Tour de Ijen in Indonesia earlier this month.
An overall winner of the 2011 Tour of Korea, Choi was mostly known as a track rider, but the disappointment of his 16th place at the London Olympics in the omnium competition put an end to the first part of his career. "I've dedicated myself to track cycling exclusively for one and half year", Choi told Cyclingnews in Can Tho after outsprinting his breakaway companion Vladimir Tuychev from Uzbekistan. "I didn't expect to become successful so fast on the road but I'm obviously happy with how things go for me in cycling now. I thought it would take at least half a year after the London Olympics to deliver results."
In a period of one and half month, Choi proved to be a versatile rider. In the presence of Pro Continental teams from Europe and the US at the Tour of Taihu Lake, he showed his ability to ride smartly in the echelons. That's how he secured a spot on the final podium alongside Czech veteran and former Lampre rider Milan Kadlec. At the Tour de Ijen, he outclassed former Lotto-Belisol climber Oscar Pujol in the 21km long ascent to the crater with gradients up to 20%. Stage 1 of the Tour of Vietnam was absolutely flat but he made the difference over the other breakaway riders, Tuychev excepted, just before the magnificent bridge over the Mekong River.
"I'm a climber", Choi defined himself. "I've learned sprinting from track cycling but now I know that I like climbing more than anything else. To win a race at the top of a grueling climb is the best feeling I've ever had in cycling."
The member of the Hong Kong team is ready to defend his lead at the Tour of Vietnam. Shall he win his third stage race in a row, it still won't be enough for him to take the lead of the 2013 Asia Tour that started in October with Team Type 1's Alexandr Serebryakov sweeping a lot of points in the HC ranked Tour of Hainan, but the true star of Asian cycling is now Choi. "After Vietnam, I'll go for an altitude camp in Kuonming, China, for one and half month to prepare for the Asian championship in India in March", said the former trainee of the UCI world cycling center. "Then I'd be keen to join a big team in Europe but I have to talk to my coach about my future first. I've heard that a few Pro Teams have noticed my results."