Mick Waite has spoken of his pride as the Perfs Pedal approaches its 50th birthday.
The event’s founder never imagined the battle, which has long signalled the start of the road racing season, would survive this long when he first put out flags in 1964.
But 79 entries, among them six of the new ONE Pro Cycling team formed by England cricketer Matt Prior, will mark it’s half-century tomorrow mor-ning (11am).
And Waite could not be happier with the star-studded cast – even if it means the chances of a second triumph for his VC St Raphael team are slim.
The 68-year-old said: ‘I didn’t think it would last this long.
‘I was probably 17 at the time I set it up. My club encouraged people to race, so I decided to have a go and we started off at Harting.
‘We have had one winner. Out of 50 years I would have liked more!
‘But Paul (Rogers, the 1991 champion) was a quality rider.
‘He was a GB rider at the time but he lives in New Zealand now.
‘It’s getting harder, too, but I’m very happy with the entry this year.
‘We’ve got ONE Pro Cycling – Matt Prior’s team – in there.
‘Their DS (directeur sportif) is Matt Winston, who was the Olympic Development Programme endurance coach for British Cycling.
‘It was great when he emailed me and asked whether he could have six places.
‘They will obviously make it a very difficult race. Matt won’t be bringing them down for a roll around!
‘It will be serious. They will want to put down a marker.’
The ONE Pro Cycling team is made up of two former Perfs Pedal winners – Marcin Bialoblocki (2013) and Chris Opie (2012) – along with Yanto Barker, George Atkins, George Barker and Sam Williams.
Waite does not expect them to have it all their own way, though.
He said: ‘The other big team entered is Pedal Heaven.
‘Tim Elverson runs them and they have got six very good riders.
‘I’m not quite sure they are at the level of ONE Pro Cycling but they will be determined to give them a race.’
Five members of the British Cycling MTB Academy – coached by two-time Perfs Pedal winner Julian Winn – are also involved with the 72km contest’s entry list, underlining how prestigious the Perfs Pedal has become.
Former winners include Sean Yates, who won stages at the Tour de France and Vuelta, and three-time national time trial champion Alex Dowsett, who has a Giro d’Italia stage win on his palmares.
Waite said: ‘Alex won it in 2007 after entering on the line!
‘He just gave me a ring and said: “Have you got any spaces, Mick?”
‘I remember when he went away we joked it was the first time someone has won it who wasn’t on the programme!’
The Perfs Pedal has previously been held at Hambledon in the 1970s and Rowlands Castle, although it outgrew both villages.
This year the headquarters are at the D Day Memorial Hall in Southwick and the route will take the peloton up Portsdown Hill via Swivelton Lane four times.
They will descend the Southwick Hill Road on each occasion before finishing on Hundred Acres Road after one-and-a-half laps of a Newtown circuit.
Waite added: ‘The best memories I have are afterwards when it has gone on!
‘We know the stress on the day is going to be horrendous but there is nothing nicer than doing a prize presentation afterwards.’