Hong Kong rider Cheung King-lok has been given another year to prove himself at the highest level after World Tour team Orica BikeExchange extended his contract for another year.
The 25-year-old, who joined the top professional team from Australia in March after clinching the road race and time trial at the 2016 Asian Championships, has yet to claim a podium finish for his team.
Cheung also failed to complete the 240-kilometre road race at the Rio Olympic Games. His best result with Orica was 64th at the Tour de Slovenie in June.
But his name was still included in the 26-member list as Orica announced their 2017 squad on Wednesday, headed by big names such as Magnus Cort, Jens Keukeleire, Esteban Chaves and brothers Simon and Adam Yates.
“He must treasure the opportunity as it’s not easy to maintain a place in a world tour team,” said Cycling Association chairman Leung Hung-tak, the former Hong Kong road race team captain. “Cheung has gone through some ups and downs in 2016 but he is still young and can learn a lot more things at the top level. We hope he can be more focused and make improvements with the help of his world-class teammates.”
Cheung is currently training in Fujian province in China along with the Hong Kong team for the Tour of Fuzhou. And according to Leung, the rider’s major target will still be the 2017 Asian Championships in Bahrain in late February before returning to Europe with Orica for the beginning of the road race season.
Orica sport director Matt White said the team had maintained a stable roster, which could be a huge advantage if handled correctly. “With only two-and-a-half changes to our roster next year the DNA and group is very similar to the roster that achieved so much in 2016,” he said. “This is an exciting prospect but something we need to approach with caution to ensure that we don’t let any complacency slip into our processes.
“We will approach all three grand tour’s with general classification ambitions which is a first for the organisation.”