Choi Ki Ho could well be Asiaâs own Daniel Teklehaymanot. In 2010 and 2011, the Hong Kong rider wore the same jersey as his Eritrean colleague at the World Cycling Centre (WCC). These two young talents shared the same strength on their bikes and the same affable character. But their roads have diverged since. Teklehaymanot has turned professional, recruited by Orica-GreenEdge. Ki Ho returned to his country and his name disappeared from all road results until last autumn. Now he is in the lead of the UCI Asia Tour.
Where has he been since leaving the WCC? "I had spent my time on track cycling instead of the road. I had to focus on training for the Olympics," he explains. Ki Ho lined up competitions in the discipline, such as the UCI World Championships. In London, he finished between 11th and 17th in the Omnium events. The results are no reflection of his vast talent, but the choice of this speciality is: it demands a wide range of skills including speed of course, but also endurance, tactics, recuperation, mental strength...
Ki Ho was one of the most talented athletes training at the WCC at the time. He has remained so. A good sprinter and at ease in the time trial, he finished 7th in the Under-23 UCI Nations Cup round in Saguenay (Canada) and 2nd in an amateur race in France, the Grand Prix Vanotti, where he crossed the line between Kenny Elissonde and Emilien Viennet, both now professionals with the FDJ.
His talent has not left him. In many ways, he was a victim of being torn between two disciplines. Member of the Hong-Kong track and road selection, Ki Ho was finally able to concentrate on the second discipline from the beginning of September. On the 7th of that month, he finished 9th in the Tour of China time trial.
âAfter the Olympics, my coach and I had a discussion and he decided to let me choose whatever I love and prioritise the most which is road cycling,â he says. âSlowly I gathered quite a few good results. Not only have I changed my diet but also the preparation for hard training to become a better and stronger road rider.â
Not yet 22, Ki Ho is capable of a promising road career in Asia or in Europe. To pierce into the highest level, he intends standing out as the winner of the UCI Asia Tour.
At the end of November, he was third in the individual ranking. Second at the end of December, and now first thanks to his performances on five events held in three countries: the Tour of Hainan, the Tour of Taihu Lake, the Tour of Fuzhou (China), the Banyuwangi Tour de Ijen (Indonesia) and the ADC Tour of Vietnam.
Ki Ho has 165 points in the individual rankings, not many more than his closest rivals, but most of them are Europeans who accumulated successes in Asia over winter and will not necessarily return to the circuit this season. The second Asian in the rankings is the Chinese athlete Ed Huang, in 8th place with 62 points.
The leader is happy to find himself among the best â if not the best â in the continent. âI am really pleased about the performances that I have accomplished so far. Those results have proven my ability and have given me greater strength and confidence in racing.â
To hold on to his ranking, Ki Ho must compete in other events before the final round, the Tour de Brunei, the 25th September. His chase for points will include the Continental Road Championships from March 14th to 17th in New Delhi (India).
Photo: Choi Ki Ho (credit: Mokhriz Aziz/Cycling Asia)