Australian WorldTour squad ORICA-GreenEDGE has finally landed the elusive Chinese-speaking rider they have been searching for, with the announcement made by Hong Kong’s Cycling Federation today.
Cheung King Lok ( 張敬樂) has signed a contract with OGE which reportedly runs from 01 April 2016 until 31 December 2017. The winner of both the Elite Men’s ITT and Road Race at the 2016 Asian Cycling Championships is due to join ORICA-GreenEDGE for a training camp in Spain on March 21.
The 25-year old Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) cyclist picked up 325 UCI points for his efforts in Japan, placing him 15th on the latest UCI World Rankings and potentially higher on the radar of World Teams.
Though the news, first broken by the South China Morning Post, might come as a surprise to many, it is not the first time ORICA-GreenEDGE has courted a rider from Hong Kong; nor will Cheung be the first Asian rider to ride with the team.
Japan’s Fumiyuki Beppu was part of the original GreenEDGE squad that launched in December 2011. Coming across from Radioshack, Beppu rode with the Aussie team for two seasons before returning to the Trek fold in 2014.
In December 2013, Hong Kong’s Choi Ki Ho was offered a contract by Australia’s only first division pro cycling team. To the dismay of the Hong Kong Cycling Association and local media, Choi turned down the offer and abruptly retired. Today, he still runs a bicycle storage business in Hong Kong with his partner.
Korean rider Jiyong Kang also joined OGE as a stagiaire in 2013, though the partnership didn’t progress further. [Read more about that particular story here]
HK01 reports Cheung learned of OGE’s offer on February 14, via national Head Coach Shen Jinkang who, alongside Wong Kam Po, is a revered figure in Hong Kong.
Following the training camp, Cheung’s first race is scheduled to be the Gran Premio Miguel Indurain (UCI 1.1) followed by the 2.1 Tour of Yorkshire from 29 April to 01 May. Longer-term, Hong Kong’s first WorldTour pro cyclist has his eye set on the 2017 Tour de France. In preparation for his transfer to OGE, his name has been removed from HKSI’s team list on the UCI database.
An official press conference relating to the announcement is scheduled for Tuesday 15 March. Cycling iQ has approached OGE for further comments, though has not received a reply to date.