Tom Morris has capped a fine start to the season with an emotional South Downs Way Double triumph.
The Portsmouth North End talent, who has already impressed in road and circuit racing this term, completed the off-road challenge last month.
When you are just there on your own, with your own thoughts, you are constantly thinking you’re not going to make it.Tom Morris
In doing so, he joined a select group of riders who have successfully navigated the 100-mile mountain-bike trail from Winchester to Eastbourne and back again – inside 24 hours.
Morris was inspired to take on the challenge after he was caught up in the crash at the Mountbatten Centre velodrome which claimed the life of Richard Phillips-Schofield last year.
Although he was not close to the police officer, Morris was left in awe of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance’s response to the crash.
And in November he vowed to take on the South Downs Way Double and raise funds for the charity which has been saving lives since 2007.
The total currently stands at £1,600 – and the figure continues to rise.
For Morris, who was 18th in the ONE Pro Cycling-dominated Perfs Pedal in February, it makes all the pain and suffering worthwhile.
And that suffering was considerable – as sickness around the halfway mark left him unable to eat and negative thoughts began to set in.
Morris, who climbed 7,109m during the day, said: ‘I’m really proud to have done it and raised a bit of money for the charity.
‘It was a bit of a rollercoaster. I’m not sure whether it was the blood sugars or what.
‘When you are just there on your own, with your own thoughts, you are constantly thinking you’re not going to make it.
‘You can spend half an hour thinking about exit strategies.
‘And then you begin to think more positively – focusing on all the people who have invested time and money in you.
‘I knew there was nothing physically stopping me – like an injury – and nothing wrong with the bike, so there was no reason I couldn’t complete it.’
Morris, who completed the ride in 19hr 35min 38sec, admitted the support of his friends and family was crucial to the success of the challenge.
Phil Saunders, Tim Higgs, Damon Roberts, Tristan Jaques and Morris’ wife Emma all lent a wheel or a motivational boost on the day.
And Martin Pegler, of the Queen Elizabeth Country Park Trail Build Collective, was there to greet him on his return to Winchester.
‘The only thing I regret is that I probably wasn’t very good company,’ said Morris.
‘It was just good to see them and get that pat on the back.
‘It’s silly, it shouldn’t make so much of a difference but it really does.’
Morris’ training for the double – as many as 300 hours in the saddle since November – has paid dividends in his racing, too.
Along with his Perfs Pedal performance, he has notched a trio of podiums – including a maiden win – in the Ludgershall Winter Series and finished 13th in the James Atherton Road Race.
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance chief executive officer Alex Lochrane said: ‘We would like to congratulate Tom on his fantastic achievement and for raising much-needed funds for the Air Ambulance.
‘Our running costs are set to increase by the end of the year when we begin night flying, so all fundraising efforts are greatly appreciated.’
The next big date on Morris’ agenda is Portsmouth North End’s annual road race next month.
He will hope to continue his good form and deliver a strong showing for his club.
The University of Portsmouth graduate, who originally hails from Cheshire, is also the RS200 class captain at Hayling Island Sailing Club, having represented Great Britain as a youth.
You can still donate at justgiving.com. Search South Downs Way Double.