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Japanese Open National Championships

Curran wins in Japan

PAUL CURRAN was Britain's best rider in the recent Japanese open national road and track championships. He won the track points race and was 11th in the road race after being heavily marked by the Japanese.

But Great Britain team manager, Eddie Soens, also had praise for Steve Bent, a newcomer to the national squad who recorded 1-9.1 for the kilometre, his first ride at the distance for two years.

In the team pursuit, Great Britain were beaten by a top university team 4-34.8 to 4-35.5. But the British boys had to contend with unique weather conditions for a track event -heavy rain.

"It lashed down," said Soens, "and they rode through it all. It was terrible, sliding all over the track." The track at Osaka has an all weather surface.

British sprint champion Mark Barry was second in his sprint, beaten by another university rider who clocked 10.78 and 10.28 for the last 200 metres.

So Barry didn't meet Japan's rated sprinter Nakataki, who never once beat 11 seconds.

Said manager Soens: In the kilometre Barry was third with 1-8. Sakamoto - he beat Barry in the World's - won in 1-7. (Both Nakataki and Sakamoto got through to the last eight in the world championships.)

"The others boys were, Bent 1-9.1, Tony Mayer 1-9.6, Curran 1-10 and Greg Newton 1-11.

"The ride I'm most pleased with is Bent's. He rode a kilometre two years ago, in the nationals, and nothing since.

"I said to the lads, if I'm going to spend time with you lads I want you to beat 1-10 for the kilometre, and 4-55 for the pursuit. And Bent got up and did 1-9, very good. He's got something, that lad."

The road race was on a motor racing circuit, 20 laps of a six-kilometre undulating course.

"There was nothing really hard about the course, but you had to get down on 42 x 16 or 17 on the hills," said Soens.

"Curran was 11th and I was pleased with this. I know 11th doesn't sound great, but there were 124 starters and 71 finishers.

"And if any of our lads made a move - and they did - the Japanese chased them. When Curran got away with a few others for three laps, the Japs went mad, and a lot packed as a result. Barry was 18th, and I was please with him too. He's not used to such distance".

"They all rode very well considering we only arrived there on Wednesday and were racing the next day. There's a lot of change after travelling such a distance. And Curran was the outstanding man in the team."