Alex Paton toasted his first victory on the road since 2015 and admitted: I’d forgotten how to win.
The 27-year-old, who has joined Canyon Eisberg from Madison Genesis this winter, clinched the season-opening Perfs Pedal against the odds on Sunday.
Paton showed his strength to nullify the challenge of Spirit Tifosi duo Rupert Graham and Jordan Peacock and win from the day’s three-man breakaway.
Barring a couple of regional circuit successes, including a win at Hillingdon the previous weekend, it was his first victory at National B level or higher for more than two-and-a-half years.
Paton, who was the team’s road captain for the Portsmouth race, revealed his joy at clinching glory and the boost to confidence it has provided ahead of his new team’s return to UCI action in March. He said:
“I’m really happy. It is important to try to win a bike race and that is something I have maybe lost sight of in the past couple of years.
“After approaching races with varying roles and responsibilities, I felt like I had lost my way a little bit. I couldn’t remember how to win.
“So I think it is important for me to get back into the groove of that. Whether it is a big race or small race, you have to go about it the right way.
“You are going back a fair way to find the last race I won – be it a big or small. It might even be the Guildford Crit a few years ago.
“It’s down to a combination of things. Riding with different teams, with different responsibilities, how well I’m going, the time of the year.
“But this is a good marker now. It gives me a little bit more confidence in what I have been doing and hopefully helps the team as we work towards some slightly more important goals.”
Paton raced under sports director Tim Elverson for Pedal Heaven in 2016. And after penning his Canyon Eisberg deal, spoke of his excitement about renewing that partnership.
He has also taken a more relaxed approach to his winter training as he bid to put a disappointing campaign with Madison Genesis firmly behind him. He added:
“It’s nice to win bike races. And at the moment things seem to be going well. It’s not unplanned. You are always planning to go well but it is paying off right now.
“I’ve approached this season a little differently, I’ve been more relaxed in training and it seems to be going all right so far.
“Perfs is not the biggest race in the world. But it is the first National B of the year and everybody gives is a little bit of respect.
“It was fairly tough to win. And I’m pleased I won. You build your training through the winter, so why not approach racing the same way. Start small and work your way up.”
After a big effort by team-mate Jack Pullar on the second climb up Portsdown Hill, Paton attacked over the top to escape the dwindling main bunch.
Graham and Peacock dug deep to go with him and form the day’s breakaway, which boasted more than one minute on the peloton at one stage.
Outnumbered, the odds were stacked against the Fleet-based rider. But he bravely took the race to his opponents the fifth and final time up the climb.
The trio splintered only to reform 5km from the finish, where Paton once again produced the decisive effort to gap Graham and win by a few bike lengths.
Meanwhile, the main bunch were closing fast. They swept up Peacock as Ben Marks, of Morvelo Basso, clinched the final podium spot.
Earlier, Max Stedman’s race was over before it really got going when he suffered a rear puncture at the base of the first climb.
Pullar, who was looking very strong, snapped his chain late on, while Louis Rose-Davies and Chris Opie were always prominent in the main bunch.