Though yet to name who will race, Hong Kong’s Cycling Association (HKSA) is relatively spoilt for choice with a bevy of young talents primed from several years of Asia Tour racing.
Hong Kong’s Cycling Association has confirmed that is has gained one berth at the 2016 Olympic Men’s Road Race to be held in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday 06 August.
Ranked fifth in the final 2015 UCI Asia Tour nation rankings (below) and therefore missing out on automatic qualification according to the official Olympic Road Cycling Qualification System (link to PDF), the fourth place finish of Leung Chun-wing at last year’s Asian Road Cycling Championships in Thailand was nonetheless sufficient to secure Hong Kong one quota place via the Continental Championships qualification pathway.
Riders from Iran and Japan finished ahead of Leung, but those nations had already filled their Olympic quotas of three and two places, respectively; so Hong Kong won the right to compete as a product of quota trickle-down.
Despite a solid, if not unremarkable, season racing for UCI Continental squad HKSI Cycling Team, 21-year old Leung will not necessarily pull on the Hong Kong jersey at the road race. Instead, HKCA may choose to send an older and more experienced rider such as Cheung King Lok or Ho Burr.
Like Leung, both Cheung and Ho first honed their craft through Hong Kong’s national track cycling program. All three men ride for the same Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) road cycling team; mimicking the setup established by the Australian Institute of Sport, whereby national track cyclists also gain valuable experience racing at international road cycling events in a concurrent sporting program.
Regardless of which rider is sent to Rio, he will have big shoes to fill. Hong Kong’s best road race result in a Summer Olympics was Hung Chung Yam’s 12th place in Seoul. Wong Kam Po’s 37th place at the most recent Games in London is the next best placing. Even prior to Wong’s retirement two years ago, there was much discussion in local broadsheet media about who would succeed the man whom everyone predicted would be Hong Kong’s first Tour de France rider but who famously shunned a lucrative pro contract.
Hong Kong’s Government has invested significantly in cycling through the HKSI platform in recent years and in August it will have its clearest sign yet of the return on that investment. A difficult selection process lies ahead.