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Curran wins Tour of Normandy

PAUL CURRAN clinched his place in the British team for the world championships with a fine win in the eight-stage Tour of Normandy. At the same time he led Great Britain to first place in the team race.

This winning double came after a week of racing that saw Curran, John Tonks, Adrian Timmis, Pete Longbottorn, Jeff Williams and Tim Stevens dictating the race pattern.

"When we took the race lead we decided that the best way to defend our position was to attack" said squad manager Keith Butler. "That's what we did and the team put up one of the best British performances I can remember."

Stage 1

On the opening leg from Carpiquet to Val de Reuil, Timmis and Williams attacked after 26 kilometres of the 155-kilometre stage had been covered. They were joined by Frenchman Montier (Normandy A) and later the whole bunch came up. At the 60-kilometre mark it was the turn of Tonks and Stevens to have a go. They went clear with 14 others and were to stay away to the end.

Curran led a counter-attack and got within 20 seconds of the break before falling back to come in with a group 1-36 behind stage winner Adam (Normandy A). Ireland's Paul Kimmage was second.

1. Adam (Normandy A)
2. Paul Kimmage (Ire)

Stage 2

The second day was a 16-kilometre time trial where Timmis took third place in 21-2. Curran was sixth with 21-15 and Tonks 11th with 21-44 after riding in pouring rain the worst weather of the day.

Tonks moved into fourth place overall with Stevens fifth, Curran 17th, 1-26 behind race leader Pineau of the French national team.

1. Stoycheau (Bel) 20-41
3. A. Timmis (GB) 21-02
6. P. Curran (GB) 21-15

Stage 3

It was on the longest stage of the race that Curran made his first move on the 199 kilometres from Val de Reuil to Verneuil-sur-Avre. A head wind kept the field together until the 120 kilometre finishing circuit was reached. Curran attacked on the second of the circuits and was away on his own for the final 12 kilometres, finishing 21 seconds ahead of Belgian Sprangers who led in eight others. Timmis, Tonks, Williams, Longbottom and Stevens finished in the bunch at 49 seconds.

Curran's effort moved him to 11th place while Tonks and Stevens held on to their fifth and sixth places. The Great Britain squad also moved into second place overall.

1. P. Curran (GB) 2hrs 37mins 22secs
2. Sprangers (Bel) at 21secs

Stage 4

The hilly stage to Alencon saw the field spread over more than 16 minutes with Timmis prominent throughout the day.

A dozen riders escaped early on but were brought back then Tonks was forced off the road and crashed. A 35mph chase brought him back into the bunch before Timmis broke away with 10 others over the day's second 1,400 feet climb. Timmis led over the top followed by Holland's Van Loon and the Normandy B rider, Gicquel.

In the final kilometre to the finish Timmis was dropped and Van Loon took the stage from Gicquel.

Timmis held on to third place as the bunch closed with Belgian Vanderaerden taking fourth place. Curran was seventh and climbed to ninth overall. Stevens had a bad day losing 10 minutes because of a crutch injury.

1. Van Loon (NL) 3hrs 52mins 52secs
2. Gicquel (Nor B)
3. A. Timmis (GB)
7. P. Curran (GB) at 10secs

Stage 5

It was on the Alencon to Domfront stage that an Anglo-Irish alliance ended with Curran taking the yellow jersey and Paul Kimmage the stage.

"We had decided that we wanted to get down to business on the climb at Tinchebay," Keith Butler said.

After an attack by Hofland (Holland) and Hebriet (Normandy A) was nullified Curran and Kimmage went off with eight others from the feeding zone. On Tinchebay Tonks, Timmis, Williams and Longbottom team time-trialled from the bunch.

Meanwhile Curran and Kimmage had dropped the rest of the break and the pair set about working at keeping clear. Kimmage went on to win from Curran with third place going to Ireland's McCormack. Longbottom was fourth, Timmis seventh, Tonks 12th and Williams 21st. Stevens was a non-finisher.

Great Britain led both the individual and team races while Kimmage had jumped from 17th overall to second.

1. P.Kimmage (IRL) 3hrs 41mins 8secs
2. P.Curran (GB) same time.

Stage 6

From Domfront to Coutances, 147 kilometres, the British team kept up the pressure with Longbottom, Williams and Tonks going in an early break of 17 riders. They were caught after 40 kilometres. When the hilly finishing circuit was reached Longbottom and Tonks were again active and escaped from the bunch to grab fourth and seventh places respectively. This move shifted Tonks to third place overall, behind Curran and Kimmage.

1. Sprangers (Bel) 3hrs 28mins 48secs

Stage 7

The final day was split into two stages. On the morning leg tactical riding by Williams helped Curran and Timmis go clear in a 10-man break. "Jeff was in 11th place in the line with Curran and Timmis ahead of him. He slowly let himself drift back and no one came past him to close the gap," manager Butler said.

Ten riders were away. Kimmage missed the move and lost his second place overall.

The last stage included a five-kilometre climb with stretches of one-in-seven and one-in-eight. Timmis took off on the hill with Curran and Kimmage in close attendance. Only four others were able to hold them, Abadie (France), Henriet, Hofland and Bonvoisin (Normandy B).

Abedie won the stage from Kimmage with Timmis and Curran sixth and seventh, but the race had finished with Curran first overall, Kimmage fifth, Tonks, eighth, Timmis ninth, Longbottom 19th and Williams 25th.

There was drama when Curran suffered a slow puncture nine miles from the finish. "I just held on, but it was a close thing" he said.

1. Abedie (Fr)
2. P. Kimmage (Ire)
6. A. Timmis (GB)
7. P. Curran (GB)


1. PAUL CURRAN (Great Britain) 21hrs 30mins 19secs
2. Hofland (Hol) at 1-34
3. Henriet (Normandy A) at 2-31
4. Adam (Normandy A) at 3-29
5. Kimmage (Ire) at 4-36
6. Van Vlimmeren (Hol) at 4-46
7. Bonvoisin (Normandy B) at 5-13
8. Tonks (GB) at 5-50
9. Timmis (GB) at 6-29
10. Gontier (Normandy B) at 6-40

18, McCormack (Ire) at 11-12; 19, Longbottom (GB) at 11-29; 25, Williams (GB) at 12-9; 28, Spratt (Ire) at 13-37; 46, McQuaid (Ire) at 29-9; 54, McCann (Ire) at 52-19; 57, McSherry (Ire) at 1-17-49.