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7th Tour of South China Sea - 2.5
Hong Kong, December 25-31, 2002
By Anthony Tan
The final UCI event of 2002, the 7th Tour of South China Sea, begins on Christmas Day with a 15 km time trial in Tai Po.
In a bustling, tropical city of over seven million people, measuring just 1,092 square kilometres, bicycle racing is normally the last thing on the minds of the Hong Kong locals. The south-east Asian city is better known for being a shopping Mecca for clothes, electronics, toys and watches, as well as a fantastic place for sightseeing.
While the locals feared the country would lose much of its identity after the Chinese takeover on July 1, 1997, China's socialist economic structure has not been imposed on the city, and Hong Kong continues to retain much of its old-world charm.
Interestingly, Hong Kong is the city where a very cosmopolitan David Millar from the French squad Cofidis spent much of his early childhood, often racing his BMX on weekends. Millar has come some way since then, supported by a handful of cycling fanatics in a somewhat cycle-unfriendly country.
After the first two days consisting of a 15 km time trial and a 96 km road race, the Tour of South China Sea heads north to the People's Republic of China, into the city of Shenzhen - pronounced sum-jun in Cantonese, and as it is written in Mandarin, the official language in mainland China.
A 90 km criterium is followed by another 108 km criterium in Zhongshan the next day, west of Shenzhen. The riders then transfer to Macau on December 29.
Macau was handed back to China in 1999, and is now a Special Administrative Region just like Hong Kong. With fake-goods galore, a horse racing track and a casino, it's a shopping and gambler's paradise - but not much else.
Your best bet would be to watch the penultimate stage of the Tour of South China Sea, a 90km circuit race through the streets of Coloane (no, that's not a misspelling for men's aftershave).
Finally, on New Year's Eve, the Tour heads to the racetrack for a 66km criterium around the Macau jockey club, where, if you have a keen eye, you may see a few under the table bets exchanged.
After the final presentations on New Year's Eve, it's time to party all the way into 2003!
Stage 1 - December 25: Tai Po Time Trial, 15 km
2001 Kam Po Wong (HKg) Pocari Hong Kong Team 2000 Neil MacDonald (RSA) HSBC