• 15 teams will chase points as part of qualifying campaign for this year's track World Championships
  • Hong Kong sprinter Yeung Cho-yiu chasing success in absence of veteran Sarah Lee

Two-time Olympic medallist Azizulhasni Awang of Malaysia will head a strong field of about 100 overseas riders for the Hong Kong International Track Cup, which starts at the city's velodrome in Tseung Kwan O on Friday.

The 35-year-old sprinter is no stranger to local fans, having won gold in the men's keirin when the 2017 World Championships were held in Hong Kong at the same venue.

He went on to take silver in the same discipline at the Tokyo Olympics, after already claiming bronze at the 2016 Rio Games, so will be among the star attractions this weekend.

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Featuring 15 teams, this International Cycling Union class I event offers ranking points for this year's track World Championships in Glasgow in August.

A number of Hong Kong riders will be chasing for spots here before continuing the quest at next month's Asian Championships in Malaysia - which also counts towards 2024 Paris Olympics berths.

"The Hong Kong event will provide a good opportunity for our riders to test themselves against their regional counterparts before those championships," the city's head coach Shen Jinkang said.

"We haven't competed on home ground since the 2021 Nations Cup series, and the riders are eager to race in front of their friends and families again. Good results could boost their confidence before the Asian event."

The home team will call on all of their top riders, who have been racing in mainland China in road and track competitions over the past couple of months in preparation.

Yeung Cho-yiu, who now leads the women's sprinting team as Sarah Lee Wai-sze winds down her career, hopes to make a breakthrough in the sprint. Riders will be timed over 200 metres from a flying start as the qualifier for the main draw.

"I finished it in 11 seconds in a practice race in China, which I have never done before," Yeung said. "Now I want to do it in a real race - I already have the know-how in my mind and hopefully with the support of the home fans, I can make it in Hong Kong."

Yeung said that if she wanted to be competitive at international level, she needed to get under the magical 11 seconds. Lee, who won keirin bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, went under that barrier months before those Games.

If she manages it, Yeung will face stiff competition from Lee Hye-jin of South Korea, who has been a major rival regionally to Sarah Lee. The Korean won keirin silver at the 2020 World Championships.

South Korea have also sent their star rider Na Ah-reum, who won four gold medals at the 2018 Asian Games, including two in endurance events on the track - the Madison and the team pursuit.

Those two disciplines, along with the omnium, will be targeted by Hong Kong in the men's competition.

"We set a new Hong Kong record in the team pursuit while racing in China," veteran rider Leung Chun-wing said.

Hong Kong to host first track cycling event for 2 years to avoid Worlds axe

"We will see if we can do it again here to close the gap behind the best teams in the region, like China, Japan and South Korea."

Leung came to prominence when winning individual road race bronze at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon and went on to take gold in the Madison at the Jakarta Games four years later.

His Madison partner, Cheung King-lok, quit last year and he is now working with Hong Kong teammate Leung Ka-yu, who will also take part in the omnium this weekend.

Tickets, priced at HK$50, will be available at the Tseung Kwan O venue.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

2023-05-26T00:37:30Z dg43tfdfdgfd