Rory Townsend summoned up all his new-found time-trialling skills to land a maiden Perfs Pedal success.
After a flurry of attacks from the Pedal Heaven team on the last of five ascents of Portsdown Hill, he made a solo dig stick to win the 46-mile curtain-raiser to the British road racing season.
Townsend, who was fifth last year as ONE Pro Cycling locked out the first four places, dedicated his win to a pal by spelling out the initials LM as he crossed the line on Hundred Acres Road.
However, it could have been so different for the 20-year-old from Addlestone – when he suffered a puncture at the foot of the final climb.
Townsend chased back on to the group – which had by then been whittled down to just 12 – as they turned on to Portsdown Hill Road.
He soon attacked to join his team-mate Grant Ferguson off the front.
Pedal Heaven’s rivals in the select front group then worked to bring the duo back before Joe Fry – another member of the Hampshire-based UCI Continental team – countered.
His move was shut down as well but a second dig from Townsend – as they descended towards Southwick for the final time – proved to be decisive.
‘I had to put in a serious effort going up the hill to get back on,’ he said.
‘And then even when I got to the top, in the crosswinds, I was still in the wind.
I’m just so happy my attack was the one that stuck in the end. I haven’t stopped smiling since. It is such a nice feeling.Rory Townsend
‘I hit the roundabout at the bottom of the hill at so much speed that, as I came out, I almost lost my back wheel.
‘I just had to get my head down for that bit and that is where I made my gap. I looked back twice and I saw nothing.
‘There was a nice bend in the road to give me a bit of morale.
‘I’ve recently got into time trialling a little bit.
‘It is something I have never experimented with before but it has just given me the confidence to do the job while I am by myself.
‘There was only 8km to go. I knew I just had to keep it together because I know the finish so well.
‘Every time I was given a time gap, it was extra morale and I knew there was no-one in that group who would bring me back on their own.’
Townsend’s triumph was also a first Perfs Pedal success for the team.
And while the race did not go quite to plan – with an ambulance forcing the commissaires to neutralise the opening lap – the St Mary’s University student was delighted to be the man to get the job done.
‘I’m just so happy my attack was the one that stuck in the end,’ he said.
‘I haven’t stopped smiling since. It is such a nice feeling.
‘There is relief, too. I have been looking forward to this for ages. Every training ride, this has been the only thing getting me through.
‘I wasn’t able to go away to Malaga on the training camp because of university, so I have had to train at home.
‘So this just shows all those long, dark evenings have been worthwhile.
‘As for the celebration, it was a tribute to a friend.
‘He has been having a bad time of it, so I said I would see if I could do something for him if I won.’