The British road racing season begins on Sunday with the Perfs Pedal Race in Hampshire – and last year’s victor Rory Townsend is hoping to become the first rider since the 1980s to win in successive years.
The 52nd edition of the National B race is also Bike Channel-Canyon’s debut race as a team, while elite teams including Nuun-Sigma Sport and Brother NRG Driveplan will also be on the start line.
Despite its modest distance of 46 miles, the race has an iconic status in British cycling, having been the traditional season-opener for decades and being won in the past by riders such as Sean Yates and Alex Dowsett.
No one since Tim Harris in 1984, however, has won the race in consecutive years, something that Townsend is hoping to achieve.
“It is a massive race. The history and prestige behind it cannot be underestimated,” the 21-year-old, who won seven National B races in 2016, said.
“Perfs is the curtain-raiser. It is full bore. I really like it because there is no time wasted. Everybody who is riding is just really excited to finally be racing together as a squad and Perfs provides the perfect platform for us to really announce ourselves.
“I am turning up and I am thinking I can’t wait for that flag to drop. I am confident in myself. I am about three months ahead of the same stage last year, according to the power files and things like that.”
“I am looking forward to it. Perfs is fun and it is on a really, really good circuit,” Opie, who joined the team from One Pro Cycling, said.
“I want to get there and for us all to look at each other and feel good enough to do what we want in the race.