By Steve Thomas
You could be forgiven for thinking that Christmas in China was an escape from the usual Santa suits and Christmas carols, but no, Christmas Eve in Hong Kong was overflowing, not just with festive tourists, but with the entire field who were about to line up for the 11th Tour of South China Sea, a six day stage race based around Hong Kong and the surrounding mainland Special Economic Zones.
Most of the stages will be relatively flat and on city based courses, kermese, and critirium style circuits, and they will average somewhere around 100 kilometres each, with just one final hilly day or racing around the old Portuguese colony of Macau.
The race usually attracts a quality field of continental and regional national teams. In recent years, the sprinters have taken the lions share of the honours, although hanging on for the overall, with the traditional hilly end usually leads to an all-rounder squeezing home by just a few seconds.
In recent years, home-based Wong Kam Po has often reigned supreme, a great and talented all-rounder who has just crowned his 2006 season with his second Asian Games road race title, so it would be fair to assume he's in good form for his home race. That said, last year he had to give best to his Pocari Sweat Hong Kong team mate Wu Kin San. Add in Cheung King Wai to the team equation (he recently won the points race at the Asian Games), and you have a pretty formidable home-based team, perhaps the strongest in the race.