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Track rule changes set to benefit Hong Kong riders as new season kicks off

Hong Kong riders are set to benefit from track cycling rule changes as the new season kicks off in Glasgow next month and culminates in the World Championships in Tseung Kwan O in April.

At the World Championships (road race) in Doha last week, the International Cycling Union announced changes to the omnium, one of the five Olympic events, with the new competition format becoming four events (scratch, tempo race, elimination and points race) that will all be held on the same day.

The timed events in the omnium – time trial, flying lap and individual pursuit – have been dropped, meaning the omnium will become predominately an endurance event, bringing better balance to the overall track programme.

Hong Kong’s top two omnium’s riders, Cheung King-lok and Leung Chun-wing, are both strong in endurance events and they are set to benefit from these changes.

“Both riders start in the road race which requires strong endurance power,” said Cycling Association chairman Leung Hung-tak. “Leung was the junior world champion in the long distance points race.

“He has been working very hard to improve his sprinting power on the track and now he may face less problems with the new format. But the changes will affect everybody and the quicker you adapt to these changes, the better result you can attain.”

Leung came 11th in the omnium at the Rio Games after Cheung opted for the road race. The two riders will certainly have another attempt at the 2020 Tokyo Games, but it remains unknown at this stage which five track programmes will be retained for the next Olympic Games.

There will also be changes in the keirin, an event Sarah Lee Wai-sze captured a bronze medal in the London Games. but lost out in Rio after a mishap in the second round when she clashed with Anna Meares of Australia.

Under the new format, the sprint distance of keirin will be increased to three laps from the previous two and a half to make the race more tactical.

“Lee has no shortage of tactics in the keirin and the change will affect her little,” said Leung. “The change will certainly make keirin more exciting as it allows the riders more time to compete for a better position before dashing to the finish.”

Lee, meanwhile, easily won the Daily Sports Cup in the women’s keirin in Japan on Monday after another a clear win in the final, beating Monique Sullivan of Canada in the process. The Hong Kong rider easily out sprinted the peloton before the last bend of the 1,682-metre, five-lap race as she followed the path of Sullivan, who faded to third. Both Lee and Sullivan won the first two races in Hofu to make it to the final. Lee will start her third round in Japan when she competes in the News Group Cup at the Kawasaki Velodrome in Tokyo on October 23-25.