As the various National Championships around the world start to play out this week, Hong Kong has already crowned its Elite road race champion for the year – Yeung Ying Hon, a 22-year-old Elite 2 ranked rider, who rode just eleven days of UCI-graded races last year, and four the previous year.
Given the current strength of both road and track racers in Hong Kong it was an amazing performance, especially considering that Yeung finished 4 seconds ahead of 2007 World Scratch Race Champion Wong Kam Po (aged 38), who is also the current Asian Games Road Race Champion, and winner of a number of road races around the world. Yeung also came home some 50 seconds ahead of current World Scratch Race Champion Kwok Ho Ting.
However, even more interesting is the fact that Yeung was not the first rider in the race to cross the line in the 105km race; that honour fell to his teammate Choi Ki-ho, Hong Kong’s brightest road racing star of the moment.
Back in April, Choi took an impressive overall victory in the Tour of Korea, which counts towards the UCI Asia Tour. The race was hotly contested by strong international line-ups from around the world, and battled out in harsh weather and mountainous conditions.
In winning the race, Choi became the youngest ever rider to do so, aged just 19 years old. However, his youth is what excluded him from becoming the Hong Kong National Elite Champion, and at the weekend he was awarded the Under 23 title instead.
Without doubt, the gangly young Choi is one of the brightest talents to be seen in Asia for some time, and has his short-term sights set on competing in the 2012 Olympic Road Race in London. Unfortunately, as things stand it looks as though Olympic qualification for road slots will be an issue for Hong Kong, for whom Wu Kinsan (Team Champion System) became the first and only ever Chinese/Hong Kong rider to finish the Olympic Road Race, when he finished in 89th place in Beijing in 2008.
Choi also spent some time in 2010 at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland. He achieved some good results there, with victory in the Tour de Berne being the highlight. He also took victory in the 2010 World Cup Madison event in Beijing (with Kwok), so could well make the London Olympics on the track if not the road.
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