Hong Kong registered but Belgium-born and raised, multiple Asian BMX Champion Steven Wong has in the past few weeks switched from the BMX track to a "near full-time" road career with the Hong Kong registered Team Champion System Continental squad.
Wong has become one of Hong Kong's most popular sportsmen in recent years, and his switch of disciples has raised a few eyebrows. "My aim was very much on BMX and the 2012 Olympics. but unfortunately a nation really needs three riders to be able to make the qualifying slot, and Hong Kong is short on that score. This meant that the chances of me making it to the London Olympics were really very slim.
"I'd been looking for some time to ride on the track or the road. I'd spoken Champion System about things a while back, and then they launched the road team. I did the team training camp in Thailand (January), and decided that I wanted to focus on the road."
In recent years several top BMX racers have made successful switches to the track, notably Jamie Staff and Shanaze Reade, who achieved amazing results in British colours.
Both Robbie McEwen and Mark Cavendish started out on the BMX track, and sprinting is clearly where Wong sees his own future. "My BMX training and recent tests all show that I'm in good shape for sprinting. It will take time for me to get to the level of a top road sprinter and to build the endurance, but I'm working on it."
Unlike McEwen and Cavendish, Wong actually started out on big wheels. "I started out riding road and cyclo-cross, and did that between the ages of 13 and 18, and also did two months a year of track training during the off season. I was also doing some BMX at the time, and then BMX became an Olympic sport, and there were openings, and I was kind of encouraged in that direction."
His international road debut was something of a baptism of fire, with his first race being the Tour of Hellas in Greece 2 weeks ago. The race started with a 6km climb, which shredded the peloton and left him amongst a group of riders excluded for missing the time cut by just a few seconds.
Last weekend he faced the GP Herning in Denmark, and was one of around 60% of the riders to not finish. "Herning was like a cold shower to me, and showed I need to stay near the front. The following day (the Himmerland Rundt) I was going much better, but got caught behind a couple of crashes. But it's good to get more race kilometres in, I'm learning."
During his early BMX racing career Wong successfully represented Belgium, but frustrations with the restrictions of the national team set up he took the option of following his fathers bloodline and he registered to race for Hong Kong, where he has lived and trained for several years now.
With the backing of the national cycling federation, Wong is keeping one foot on the BMX start ramp, at least for now. "Given the Olympic situation I think I've done all that I can on the BMX track. But, Hong Kong Cycling Association have helped me quite a lot, and I want to still be involved with helping them to gain support and funding, and to help develop younger BMX riders too, so I agreed to some events, and believe that at that level I can still gain medals."
His next outing will be the Asian BMX Championships in China during mid-May, after that he's back to cutting his road teeth with the Jurmala GP in Latvia and the Estonian Tartu GP and Tallinn-Tartu GP.
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