South African sprinter Christoff van Heerden won his first international cycling title by capturing the general classification at the Tour of Hong Kong Shanghai in China on Saturday.
Van Heerden finished third on the final stage, a 78km circuit race in the city of Shanghai, which netted him a small time bonus and extended his final margin of victory over Australian Boadley Hall to 32 seconds. Van Heerden also won the points classification and the Asia-Pacific region classification. The final stage was taken by Malaysian Akmal Amrun ahead of Van Heerden's Konica Minolta teammate, Adam Blythe.
"It feels great to finally win an international race," said an elated Van Heerden, who finished second at the Tour of Pennsylvania in June. "The stages here were mostly short and fast and the racing was similar to what we have back home in South Africa, quick and aggressive from the start!"
Van Heerden won the opening stage and briefly relinquished the yellow jersey to Blythe after stage before regaining it on Stage 3a. Then Hong Kong's King Wai Cheung succeeded in wresting the lead from the 23 year-old South African after a brave breakaway on Stage 4. But aggressive riding on stage 5 gave Van Heerden his second stage win and the leader's jersey, which he kept firmly on his shoulders with a podium finish on the final stage
"Fourth time lucky!" said a smiling Konica Minolta team boss John Robertson. "Our team has had runner-up finishes at the 2006 Tour of Japan, the 2006 GP Tell and this year's Tour of Pennsylvania. Christoff rode really well and deserved the win, but obviously it was a combined team effort that made it possible."
"Our form and confidence are at a peak right now," said Van Heerden said of himself and his team. "That's going to be beneficial as we tackle the big end-of-year races in South Africa. Hopefully we can get more wins."