Tom Morris has not ruled out a bid for the Perfs Pedal’s memorial trophy despite continuing his recovery from injury.
The Portsmouth North End (PNE) rider finished 18th in the prestigious race last year – before a knee problem curtailed his campaign.
However, he was just 57 seconds shy of Primera/Team Jobs talent Calum Croft, who won the James Atherton and Richard Phillips-Schofield award for the best category two finisher from British Cycling’s south region.
Morris admits he is not at the same stage in his training as 12 months ago – when he was deep into preparations for a successful tilt at the South Downs Double.
But he remains keen to challenge for the trophy, which is dedicated to the two riders from the south region who died in cycling accidents, when the riders roll out for the 51st Perfs Pedal next Sunday.
Morris said: ‘James and Richard were great local riders, so putting in a good showing for the south coast clubs would feel fitting.
‘I was close last year. A break went on the first climb and I was badly positioned. The guy who won it was just in the group ahead.
‘The Perfs is always a good opportunity to match yourself up against some of the top domestic riders.
‘It is probably one of the harder races I’ll do in the season, so it can maybe be a bit daunting starting at this level.
‘However, with so many top riders here any pressure is off. You can just enjoy mixing it with the top lads.’
Morris has been indebted to the help of fellow PNE rider and physio Yvonne Frampton and Garth Kruger at Vankru Cycling for getting him back on his bike.
He remains unsure how his form will stack up, although has been impressed by his numbers in training.
Morris said: ‘I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to ride this year. So to just be starting the season pain-free and in reasonable shape has been my only goal.
‘I am a couple of months behind where I was last year, mainly due to the injury but also a conscious effort to ease myself in a bit slower.
‘Despite being a bit further behind my power is a few per cent up, so maybe the break did me good.
‘But really, I just want a strong showing, not get timed out and have my knee in one piece at the end.’
Around 20 of the 85 entries for the Perfs Pedal qualify for the Atherton/Schofield award.
Among the contenders are former PNE rider Andrew Carter, Clanfield’s Harry Veale and Waterlooville rider Dan Bone.
The Perfs Pedal, which will this year include five ascents of Portsdown Hill before finishing at Hundred Acre Wood, is the traditional curtain-raiser for the road racing season in Britain and was won last year by ONE Pro Cycling’s Yanto Barker.