There will be few more relieved and determined men rolling out of Pembrey Country Park on Sunday than Alex Paton.
Hit by an oncoming car at the Tour de Yorkshire, struck down by a virus during the Tour Series and brought down by a stricken rival in the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic.
It’s fair to say the 28-year-old has not had the rub of the green when it comes to his pre-season targets.
Paton is now preparing to line-up alongside Max Stedman, Ryan Christensen, Rory Townsend, Andrew Tennant and Dexter Gardias in Canyon Eisberg’s squad for the eight-day Tour of Britain.
And having returned to work under sports director Tim Elverson this term, he is grateful for the opportunity. Paton said:
“I’m buzzing. It will be my first time doing the Tour of Britain. And bar the British championships, it is probably the most prestigious race in the country.
“When you factor in the people racing, the teams, the coverage, the support, it is one of our biggest sporting events.
“Up until Tim told us the squad I didn’t know whether I was going to make it. It is really tough in this team.
“I felt it was 50:50 whether I would ride or not. And that’s not because I hadn’t done well enough, it was because we have a lot of guys all performing very, very well.
“It was always going to be quite tight. But I’m delighted to have made it and I can’t wait to get started.
“Yorkshire was really disappointing. That whole month – the back end of April and May with the Tour Series – was really disappointing, to be honest.
“Missing out on the whole Yorkshire experience was hard enough but then I lost out on the subsequent benefits of doing the race, too.
“You try to pick yourself up again. But it takes time, so you have to be patient and persistent with it. Eventually you get there.”
The Tour of Britain begins with a 174.8km stage from Pembrey Country Park to Newport and climaxes with a 77km crit on the streets of London.
Paton is relishing that finale and hopes he will be toasting a successful week in support of general classification rider Stedman and the team’s supporters. He added:
“Not only should the London stage suit me better than any of the others but it comes at the end of the week, so there should be a great atmosphere.
“It has all the key ingredients for what makes a bike race I like. We are very good at circuit racing in this country, it is exactly what we spend a lot of our year doing.
“Obviously, it is going to be somewhat different on the final day of an eight-day race. But it could be a benefit for us having that at the end.
“For me, to genuinely feel I have helped Max achieve something good in the race will make these eight days a success.
“He is by far the best person in our team to get a result. And to feel like you have helped, not just taken part in the race, would be great.
“I’d like to be able to look back on a few key moments in the race and know he was able to rely on me at those times.
“Max is good enough to achieve a result and sometimes the difference – against bigger teams and bigger riders – is people like myself and the other team members.
“I’d love to get in a breakaway. Ultimately it might help me get through a day best because I can take a more relaxed approach on the climbs.
“With the best will in the world, I am never going to get over them with the top guys when the hammer is down.
“Plus, it is mega for the team. It is what sponsors get involved for, so the more we can put them on the television and promote their stuff, the better.”
Paton made a flying start to the year with victory in the Perfs Pedal – the traditional curtain-raiser for the road racing campaign.
Since battling back to fitness following his virus, he has played a key part in Canyon Eisberg’s Tour of Britain qualification.
He starred in a crucial breakaway at the Bristol Grand Prix, helping Jack Pullar to second spot and claiming fourth himself.