Mitchell Webber has admitted he would sacrifice Perfs Pedal glory for a campaign free from illness and injury.
The former Andover Wheelers talent will make his BIKE Channel Canyon debut in the Portsmouth event on Sunday (11am).
In what represents his home race, the 21-year-old would dearly love to improve on last year’s second spot and deliver victory in front of friends and family who will be lining the 74km route.
However, after a virus sidelined him for much of 2016, he is determined to make up for lost time.
And he wants repay the loyalty shown in him by sports director Tim Elverson, who took him to BIKE Channel Canyon from Pedal Heaven.
“I would love to win Perfs. But obviously the team comes first and it is not the be-all and end-all for me this season.
“I want to have a long season. I don’t want to go well on Sunday and then lose half of the year again. That was horrible.
“I certainly appreciate it more when I’m fit now and I want to make up for lost time. I want to do everything I couldn’t do last year, like the Ras. I would love to see if I can get in the squad for that.
“It was nervous times to see if I would be on the team this year. But luckily Tim saw past the illness and I really appreciate that.
“I definitely want to repay his faith and when you start racing and enjoying it, that’s when good things happen.”
Webber will line-up alongside reigning champion Rory Townsend, 2012 winner Chris Opie, Rob Partridge, James Lowsley-Williams and Alex Richardson on Sunday.
It will be his third appearance at the race, which features five ascents of Portsdown Hill and finishes on Hundred Acres Road near Wickham.
The former Andover College student added:
“I know a lot of the people who go down and watch, especially having raced down at the Mountbatten Centre in Pompey.
“A few of my friends at Andover Wheelers ride down to watch every year and I have watched it over the years.
“It is one of the few local races we have. I first did it four years ago in the pouring rain when UK Youth dominated and Marcin (Bialoblocki) won it.
“Luckily – and I mean luckily – I punctured. I have never been so grateful for a puncture in all my life because it was absolutely freezing!
“I would love to win it, of course. Mind you, so would 84 other people!”