Opie: Perfs glory was a big deal
Chris Opie got BIKE Channel off to a winning start at the Perfs Pedal and insisted: It was a big deal for us.
As the only UCI Continental team in the race, the newly-formed outfit were heavy favourites to carry off the crown. The hype surrounding their arrival in Southwick for the 74km tear-up drew critcism from some quarters. But despite the team having much bigger challenges ahead, Opie insisted it was a massive day for the team and important to start with a win.
BIKE Channel Canyon, who are based in Fleet, did not have it all their own way, though, as they tackled five ascents of Portsdown Hill before a sprint to the finish on Hundred Acres Road, near Wickham. British national junior champion Jacob Vaughan rode brilliantly to prevent a one-two as defending champion Rory Townsend had to settle for third with Jack Billyard, who ignited the sprint up the climb to the finish, next home. Opie said: ‘If teams and the supporters don’t make a big deal of races like this, who’s going to? ‘It’s good to win because it is the biggest race in the country this weekend! ‘You go to a race to win, you go to deliver your best performance. You want to do as well as you possibly can. ‘It was a big deal for us. The team is only five months old and a lot of work has gone in to getting us here.
‘Everyone is very excited about what’s to come but it all started at Perfs.’ Opie first won the race in 2012 before finishing second to team-mate Yanto Barker in ONE Pro Cycling colours in 2015. But until the final few kilometres yesterday, he wasn’t comtemplating becoming a double winner. Opie added: ‘That was short and intense. Rory was away after the last climb. He was looking pretty good actually and had a decent gap there for a while. ‘I was thinking I just could sit on then and cruise around to the finish. As it was, the other two lads rode really, really well. They pulled Rory back but that meant I could just sit on. ‘Then Jack went for it early on the climb to the finish, Rory went after him and I came round them, which was quite nice.’
Billyard picked up the James Atherton & Richard Phillips-Schofield Trophy for the best-placed category two rider. The Zappis talent was also the top-finishing rider from the south region – ahead of James Lowsley-Williams (11th) and Mitchell Webber (12th) – claiming a further cash prize. Fifth place went to BIKE Channel Canyon’s Rob Partridge, while the top 10 was rounded out by Michael Mottram, Matthew Clarke, Louis Rose-Davies, Chris McNamara and Elliott Porter.