|CIRCUIT DES MINES|
Although Curran 24, had to concede defeat by 13 seconds, to local rider Pascal Lance, he had the consolation of leading the most impressive performance by an amateur British team abroad for many years.
Great Britain won the team prize by more than nine minutes. Curran won two stages and the points classification and Pete Longbottom was third overall and runner up in the King of the Mountains competition despite suffering an untimely puncture on the last day.
Curran took over the yellow jersey of leadership after the first two stages. Curran, riding his first Continental stage event, was equal on time with Dane John Carlsen, but took the jersey thanks to better daily placings.
Saturday's opening stage was won by Cornelisse of Holland with French rider Friedman in second place and Curran and Carlsen at 30 seconds third and fourth respectively.
Next to finish at 37 seconds was a bunch of 21 riders including Britain's Mike Twelves, Pete Longbottom and Jon Clay.
The race blew apart in snow, sleet and strong winds on Sunday. A change in wind direction at half way saw 17 riders break away, including Williams, Clay, Curran and Longbottom.
Next time round Curran was beaten by French rider Hosotte, who took the stage, but Curran was second, ahead of Carlsen.
Pete Longbottom was slightly detached in fourth place, helping Britain to first team on the day and leading team overall by four minutes.
Manager Albert Hitchen praised Twelves and Deno Davie for their work containing the Dutch in the bunch.
The first two days of the race, based near Metz in eastem France, had seen Curran take the yellow jersey on points after sharing the lead on time with Dane John Carlsen.
The Dane was in a 17-man group that went clear at half-way, but so were Curran, Longbottom, Jeff Williams and Jon Clay. Carlsen attacked on the second lap of the hilly finishing circuit and only Curran and Longbottom could go with him.
In a tight finish Curran outsprinted Carlsen to retain his overall lead, while Longbottom was third on the stage and third overall and Clay and Williams were sixth and seventh respectively.
Stage four saw Carlsen knock Curran from top spot and Longbottom move to second overall.
Curran, who was kicking himself for missing the move, took the bunch sprint. But Carlsen was now in the yellow jersey, 1-20 up on Longbottom and 2-10 up on Curran.
Following the morning's 175-kilometre road stage, riders faced an 18-kilometre time trial. This dealt a body blow to Longbottom, who punctured, losing 18 seconds according to a commissaire's estimate.
Fastest was Pascal Lance, who moved up to second overall. Curran excelled to record fifth fastest time, while Longbottom was ninth.
The final day saw Curran in determined mood, starting in fourth position overall, 1-31 down on leader Lance.
The start was very fast with a tailwind and the bunch split, with five Britons in the leading group of 21. Carlsen's luck ran out when he punctured. Jeff Williams and a Frenchman broke clear with 25 miles to go.
On the last climb Curran made his bid for victory, jumping away from the group then across to the leaders. He dropped them and went on to win the stage by 16 seconds, with Longbottom sprinting to third place.
Curran had gone down fighting although his effort was good enough to boost his position to second overall, Lance finished with 13 seconds in hand to claim overall victory.
"ON the whole I was quite pleased," was Paul Curran's reaction to his second place. "I always expect the worst when I go over there, and then it's not so much of a shock," he joked.
And what of the future? "Hopefully, I'll be picked for the Milk Race and after that I don't know, I might switch back to the track for the nationals. I may go to France."
1. John Carlsen (Denmark) 175km in 4-36-20
2. Longbottom (GB) st
3. Nigboer, (Hol)
4. Lance (Fr) all st
5. Faivre (Fr) at 1.20.
1. Pascal Lance (Fr) 24-34-6
2. Harel (Fr) 24-53-74
3. Carlsen, 25-4.42
4. Maquet (Fr) 25-8.72
5. Curran (GB) 25-19.4
9. Longbottom (GB) 25-49.14.
2. Lance at 1-6
3. Longbottom at 1-24
4. Curran at 1-31.
1. Paul Curran (GB) 104km in 2-58-2
2. Godard (Fr) at 16 sec
4. Gaucher (Fr)
5. Stevenhagen (Hol)
7. Twelves (GB) all st.
1. PASCAL LANCE (Lorraine) 19-12-20
2. P. Curran (GB) at 13 seconds
3. P. Longbottom (GB) at 18 sec
4. J. Carlsen (Den) at 41 sec
5. Stevenhagen (Hol) at 3-19.
Team. - Great Britain; 2, Lorraine, at 9-30; 3. Holland, at 18-13.