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GIRVAN Three-Day

Curran all the way in Girvan

PAUL CURRAN (Manchester Wheelers-Trumanns Steel) joined the elite when he won the Girvan three-day race for the second year in succession. Only two riders had previously landed the double - Tony Doyle and Des Fretwell.

The Teesside rider also collected the Digital Sprints prize and paved the way for his club winning the team award.

Curran set the pace from day one, winning the first stage and never relinquishing the yellow jersey He wasn't out of the first four in all stages.

After the race he said: "I may stick to the road for the rest of this season, I am going well and enjoying it".

Paul Watson (Luton Composite) won the King of the Mountains award. He also took the final stage in a courageous style after a puncture early in the race.

The race organised by Wallacehill CC-Ayrshire Office Services, and sponsored by Kyle and Carrick Council, Digital and Roneo Alcatel, was a great success for the English riders who took the first four places overall. Northern Ireland's Joe Barr was fifth. Best-placed Scot was Alistair Adams in 11th spot.

Stage 1

Lucky for Curran

SCOTLAND is proving lucky for Englishman Paul Curran. Last year he won the Girvan race overall and in Saturday's first stage he sparkled in the spring sunshine to beat Phil Bateman (Chesterfield Coureurs) and Andy Hurford (VC Nottingham).

Afterwards the Teessider said: "I love riding in Scotland - it seems to do me good." The other 74 riders who started the stage will not argue with that.

Curran, Bateman and Hurford made the decisive move of the stage with about 18 miles to go, just outside the village 'of Maybole. They built up a lead of more than a minute, then on the outskirts of Girvan, Curran surged away to win on his own. Bateman beat Hurford in the sprint for second place.

It was a race full of action and the first break came after about a mile when Scot Willie Gibb, suntanned from a Majorcan cycling holiday, went away with Paul Carroll (North East Centre of Excellence).

They stayed away for 20 miles before being caught by John Kennedy and Chris Greaves, team-mates of Carroll, Pete Longbottom (Manchester Wheelers) and Aidan Harrison (NCA Ireland).

This new group did not last long as the bunch motored along in the dry conditions. The Ailsa Brae Prime was won by Carroll from Longbottom and Gibb, then at 26 miles they were rejoined by the main bunch.

More action at Patna; Ken Gray (VC Nottingham) went r off the front for a spell, closely chased by Gibb and Carroll. But the pack reeled them in again.

At Dalmellington there was a crash and 12 riders went down - fortunately with no serious injury.

In the same town, Paul Watson (Luton Composite) beat Jeff Williams in the Digital sprint.

The scenery changed to the lovely hills around Straiton and the same trio of riders figured in the prime at Grimmet. Watson took the honours from Williams. With 20 miles to the finish they were caught. But it was noticeable that they had been easing off.

Then came that dramatic and decisive break by Curran, Bateman and Hurford.

1. Paul Curran (Manchester Wh) 68m in 2-40.34
2. P. Bateman (Chesterfield Coureurs), at 22sec
3. A. Hurford (VC Nottingham)
4. C. McCann (N. Ireland) at 1.44
5. M. Bell (Merseyside)
6. S. Cooke (VC Etoile) at 2-19
7. A. Adams (City of Edinhurgh)
8. P. Wilkins (VC Nottingham)
9. I. Scott (VC Nottingham)
10. J. Kennedy (North East Centre of Excellence), all st

Mountains - P. Carroll (NE Centre of Excellence) 8; W. Gibb (Johnstone Wh) 5; P. Watson (Luton) 5.
Team. - Manchester Wh, 8-6-20; 2, VC Nottingham at 11sec; 3. Chesterfield, st.

Stage 2

Furious Pace

A DYNAMIC sprint finish by John Kennedy (North East Centre of Excellence) gave him victory over Pete Longbottom (Manchester Wheelers) in the evening criterium held, appropriate1y enough at Girvan's Victory Park.

It was a fine scalp for the 21-year-old from Keighley, Yorkshire, in the 15-lap, 17-mile race. The pace was fast and furious throughout and Longbottom, along with yellow jersey man Curran, had done a lot to break up the field. Longbottom won one of the four Digital sprint prizes along with Curran, Phil Bateman, VC Nottingham and Eamonn Rooney of Luton.

He started his charge around the tenth lap, won the 11th and 12th and kept the pressure on until that cliff-hanging finale. All the more credit to Kennedy for clinching his sprint, although Longbottom must have taken a lot out of himself in the previous five laps.

Phil Wilkins was third in the bunch sprint ending which had 33 riders on the same time - seven seconds down.

Steve Finnegan (Greenock) was unlucky when he punctured with four laps to go. The diminutive Scot had always been in contention throughout the race and was in the front five when his tyre went. The cost? He finished 1-34 down.

1. John Kennedy (NE Centre of Excellence) 17m in 38-9
2. P. Longhottom. St
3. P. Wilkins
4. P. Curran
5. J. Barr (N. Ireland)
6. M. Lawson (Scotia)
7. A. Green (VC Etoile)
8. P. Bateman
9. I. Scott VC Nottingham)
10. M. Bell (Merseyside), all at 7 secs.

Overall. - Curran, 3-18-35; 2, Bateman at 8sec; 3, Hurford at 2lsec; eq 4, C. McCann (N. Ireland). M. Bell (Merseyside) at 1-59; 6. Kennedy, at 2-17; 7, Longbottom at 2-21: 8. P. Wilkins at 2-31; eq 9. J. Barr and S. Cooke (VC Etoile) at 2-34.
Team. - Manchester Wh, 10-1-1; 2, VC Nottingham; 3. N. Ireland: 4. Merseyside.
Points - Curran, 51: 2. Bateman, 42; 3. Hurford. 29.

Stage 3

Man of the moment

PHIL WILKINS (VC Nottingham) was the man of the moment on the 98-mile third stage - he was in the main action for most of the way along with race leader Paul Curran, Joe Barr (Northern Ireland), Andy Hurford and Paul Watson (Luton).

And in a sprint finish he won easily from Barr, with Curran happy to cruise in third to consolidate his position of overall leader. Wilkins also won two of the three Digital Sprints.

There were many breaks in a cracking race which saw groups forming, splitting and re-grouping in a matter of miles.

Hurford made a brave solo effort 15 miles from home when he broke from a group of 25 riders who had figured in most of the day's action.

The Nottingham rider stayed clear for about 16 miles then he was caught and passed by Wilkins, Barr and Curran, with five miles to the finish. Hurford finished fourth behind this trio.

In the King of the Mountains competition Paul Watson won all three primes - at Mauchline, Sorn and Ochiltree - to lead Paul Carroll by 11 points.

Best placed Scot was Willie Gibb (Johnstone) who won a bunch sprint of nine to finish in eighth position. Two rear wheel failures didn't help Gibbs chances in the race. 71 riders started and 63 finished.

1. Phil Wilkins (VC Nottingham) 98m in 3-54-51
2. J. Barr (Northern Ireland)
3. P. Curran (Manchester Wh) st
4. A. Hurford (VC Nottingham) at 51sec
5. P. Watson (Luton) at 1-35
6. J. Withey (VC Etoile) st
7. P. Longbottom (Manchester Wh) at 2-1
8. W. Gibb (Johnstone) at 2-7
9. C. McCann (Northern Ireland) st
10. S. Cooke (VC Etoile) st

Overall. - Curran, 7-13-21; 2, Hurford at 1-17; 3. Wilkins at 2-21; 4. Bateman (Chesterfield Cour) at 2-28; 5. Barr at 2-29; 6. McCann at 4-11; 7, Watson at 4-14; 8. Longbottom at 4-27; 9. Cooke at 4-46; 10, Gibb, st.
Kom. - P. Watson 20pts.
Team. -Manchester Whs, 21-49-42; 2. VC Nottingham at 3-54; 3, Northern Ireland at 6-24.

Stage 4

What a come-back

NO doubt about the hero of the 80-mile fourth stage, it was 22-year-old Paul Watson (Luton Composite) who made a remarkable fight-back after a puncture to go on to beat Paul Curran in the winning sprint.

Watson's puncture came on the descent from the first hill-climb of the day from Glenalla. Because of the narrow roads and congestion he had to wait three to four minutes for a wheel change.

But the leader of the climber's competition showed great courage and strength and joined the leading group of 15 riders after 20 miles.

Afterwards the Milton Keynes rider said: 'I thought I had lost my chance. I waited at least four minutes, then I managed to catch up and keep Longbottom and then rejoin.'

This group included the first nine in general classification - Curran, Hurford, Wilkins, Bateman, Barr, McCann, Longbottom, Cooke and of course Watson.

Longbottom tried hard to stir things up on the way home and young Scotland rider Mike Lawson who had made two earlier breaks contributed also.

Then with only two miles to go came the winning move, Watson and Curran breaking from the others. In the final sprint along Girvans Henrietta Street, the tall Luton rider took the honours from Curran. Phil Wilkins was third.

If there was an award for the unluckiest rider it should go to Phil Bateman. He won the tough Nick O'Balloch climb on his own, built up a narrow lead, then, as he was caught by Curran and Keith Gordon of Merseyside, he punctured.

This pair got away and built up a lead of over a minute before they were caught after 25 miles by 14 riders.

1. Paul Watson (Luton Composite) 80m in 3-23-28
2. P. Curran (Manchester Wh) at 1sec
3. P. Wilkins (VC Nottingham) at 8sec
4. P. Rayner (Dinnington RC)
5. J. Barr (Northern Ireland)
6. A. Adams (City of Edinburgh)
7. S. Cooke (VC Etoile)
8. P. Bateman (Chesterfield Cour)
9. P. Longbottom (Manchester Wh)
10. M. Lawson (Young Scotland) all st


1. PAUL CURRAN (Manchester Wh-Trumanns Steel) 10-36-40
2. A. Hurford (VC Nottingham) at 1-34
3. Wilkins at 2-33
4. Bateman at 2-45
5. Barr at 2-46
6. Watson at 4-8
7. C. McCann (Northern Ireland) at 4-28
8. Longbottom at 4-44
9. Cooke at 5-3
10. K. Gordon (Merseyside)
11. Adams, both st.

Team. - Manchester Wheelers; 2, VC Nottingham; 3, Luton Comp.
King of the Mountains. - Watson 3lpts; 2, Bateman 27.