Manchester to Rhyl Two-Day
Star Trophy holder Paul Curran added the two-day, 222-mile Manchester to Rhyl and back road race to his growing list of achievements on Sunday. The Manchester Wheeler's victory was exceptional, even by his high standards. He shot to the top of the general classification after being almost four minutes down on the overnight leader, Norman Hughes (Wales), by being at the front for the entire 110 miles of the second stage.
Credit most also go to Martin Coll (Scotland) who joined Curran in a break at half distance, but could not match him at the finish and he was second on the stage and runner-up in the overall honours.
Hughes, the stage one winner, rode aggressively throughout, but he could not cope when the big hitters decided they would work him over to drop him from the break on the second day.
Excellent police co-operation helped re-establish this top amateur event after a nine-year lay-off. Now organiser, Derek Bowyer wants a major sponsor to make next year's race a full international.
Nobody deserved to win the first stage more than Norman Hughes. The 21-year-old Welshman was in the thick of the action from the start and it was a just reward that he should finish a length clear of Paul Dennis (Dinnington RC) and 2-0 ahead of the rest of the break led in by Steve Porter (Isle of Man).
It was Hughes' first win of the season, but the Welsh team revealed they had been quietly confident. He gave a warning that he was on the verge of a big win after finishing fourth overall in the Tour of Lancashire.
"I had four wins last year, but this is my best ever performance. I am at my best ever form." he said. "Not working helps."
John Friswell, at the Welsh Cycling Union, reckoned Hughes success, backed by Keith Jones in fifth place, was part of a prearranged scheme. "It was plan B," he explained. "It is no good just having one rider in the break, you have got to have two. They know the roads and they said they were going to have a go."
"Plan C," to get Stuart Coles up to break did not quite come off. He broke away on the Horseshoe Pass climb, but did not make the chasing group which formed after the descent and decided the outcome of the race.
Hughes went into action after 10 miles catching an early break. Various groups of riders got up to this break and at 21 miles there were 29 in the leading pack with 45 seconds advantage on the bunch.
The following climb into Tarporley, the first real hill of the day changed everything and as the race descended through the town Hughes, Jones, Richard Fletcher (Isle of Man) and Andrew Johnson East Midlands Centre of Excellence) were clear, reaching a maximum lead of 4-32 at Wrexham after 46 miles.
Porter and Bernie Burns (West Yorkshire Division) chased for almost 10 miles, but were eventually absorbed into a 17-strong group which had closed the lead down to 1-40 at the start of the Horseshoe Pass climb.
Fletcher was soon dropped but the remaining three stuck to their task and gradually pulled away again. Johnson took the sprint at the summit from Hughes, with Jones 15 seconds adrift, a difference he soon made up on the descent.
The trio stayed out front for another 10 miles when Deno Davie (Manchester Wheelers) and David Finlayson (Scotland) jumped across a 1-46 gap. Porter, Karl Smith (North West Centre of Excellence) and Dennis were the next to make contact and eight riders contested the second prime hill at Bylchau after 87 miles.
This result was a repeat of the Horseshoe Pass, 24 miles earlier, with Johnson again taking maximum points from Hughes and Jones third. Vincent Smith (Lakeland and Lancashire Division) was 30 seconds behind the leaders at this point, but he soon closed this gap.
With 10 miles to go the nine leaders had a 43-second advantage, but then after the climb out of Llansannon came the news that Hughes and Dennis had made their move. Their lead was 43 seconds and increasing with every pedal stroke. At the two kilometres to go board they were three kilometres ahead of their chasers.
They came onto Rhyl Promenade side by side. Dennis made the most of his limited sprinting power and he almost held off Hughes, but just before the line his strength gave out and Hughes got the verdict.
1. Norman Hughes (Wales) 106.2m in 4-25-5
2. P. Dennis (Dinnington RC) st
3. S. Porter (Isle of Man) at 2-9
4. A. Johnson (East Mids Centre of Excellence)
5. K. Jones (Wales)
6. V. Smith (Lakeland & Lancs Division)
7. D. Finlayson (Scotland)
8. K. Smith (NW Centre of Excellence)
9. D. Davie (Manchester Wh) all st
10. D. Wood (Southern Centre of Excellence) at 2-48.
If Hughes' performance on Saturday had been impressive, then Paul Curran's winning ride on Sunday was nothing short of amazing. He attacked directly after the start and was still at the head of affairs 110 miles later when he outsprinted Martin Coll (Scotland) in Wythenshawe Park, Manchester.
Curran explained that he only attacked as a decoy for his Manchester Wheelers team-mate, Deno Davie, their highest placed rider after the first stage. "We were going to take it in turns to attack. I went first, that is the only reason why I went so early. It looked a bit mad, but we were only looking after Deno," he said.
"When I got a gap I thought I would try to keep it going. Then the group got up to me and as Deno was not with it, it gave me an excuse to sit on. We attacked once or twice to get rid of the yellow jersey and I went away again. There were no problems today, we had it sussed. It is more money in the kitty."
Curran's ride left the remains of the break at almost four minutes, and Coll paid tribute to his efforts, applauding him down the finishing straight after he had given up the sprint.
Dave Williams (Paragon RT) led in Geoff Davison (Yorkshire and Humberside Centre of Excellence) and Gary Coltman (East Midlands Centre of Excellence) 3-45 down on Curran. Steve Porter (Isle of Man), an earlier member of the same break, won the bunch sprint for sixth place 36 seconds later.
It was not until after 29 miles that anyone organised a serious chase after Curran. He had covered the first 25 very hilly miles in 57-39 and was 3-0 clear before Karl Smith and John Cavanagh (North West Centre of Excellence), Williams, Porter and the yellow leader's jersey of Norman Hughes (Wales) went after him.
They had no problems getting away from the bunch and gradually gained on Curran, making contact on the climb up the picturesque Nant Y Garth Pass with 37 miles completed. Coltman was chasing with Giles Pidcock (Manchester Division) at 48 seconds and the bunch was at 1-18.
The climb of the Horseshoe Pass followed, and Curran, who took the earlier Bylchau prime, alone, attacked and comfortably took the other climber's prize of the day. He jumped to an enormous gap, but said later that his only consideration at this point had been to win the prime. He had no intentions of staying away.
Coltman dropped Pidcock on the climb and eventually made contact with the break after 48 miles. Coll, Adrian Rudd (West Midlands Centre of Excellence) and Davison were off the front of the bunch and when Cavanagh had a front wheel puncture at 54 miles he was able to jump onto their wheels as they passed him and the group made contact with the leaders within a mile.
Next came the attacks to shake off Hughes, the race leader. He had over two minutes over the best placed riders in the break, so nobody wanted him with them. Cavanagh tried first, then Curran, and with Cavanagh blocking on the front Smith also went up the road. The break then split again, with Coltman, Williams, Davison and Coll going up the road to join Curran and Smith. The plan had worked as Hughes was left in the back group with Cavanagh, Porter and Rudd.
By 71 miles the gap between the two breakaway groups was 1-37 and Hughes went it alone to try and bridge the gap. His brave effort held this difference, but he could make no impression and after 20 minutes alone he was eventually caught by the bunch who had earlier collected Cavanagh, Porter and Rudd.
Williams was now the leader on the road, but Curran's attack after 82 miles was about to change that.
Coll was the only rider with the strength to follow, and although Williams led the others after them, his chances of overall victory were slipping away from him.
Smith was dropped as Curran and Coll went up to 35 seconds clear and although the chasers managed to peg them back to within 24 seconds at 92 miles, that was as far as they got. Within 10 miles they were up to 1-35 and Curran was the overall leader. He had finished in the bunch with the same time as Coll the previous day, but was placed 33rd, five places better than the Scot. The bunch was over four minutes down and the leaders held their advantage over the final miles.
Curran was first into the park for the finish. Coll came off his wheel and led over the narrow bridge, then Curran jumped 50 yards to go, took five lengths and Coll had nothing left. He sat back on the saddle and took both hands off the bars to join with the crowd applauding Curran as he crossed the line.
1. Paul Curran (Manchester Wh- C Austin Truman) 109.8m
2. M. Coll (Scotland) st
3. D. Williams (Paragon RT) at 3-53
4. G. Davison (Yorks & Humberside Centre of Excellence)
5. G. Coltman (E. Mids Centre of Excellence) both st
6. S. Porter (Isle of Man) at 4-29
7. I. Sanders (Paragon RT)
8. W. Elliott (W. Mids Centre of Excellence)
9. A. Johnson (E. Mids Centre of Excellence)
10. P. Shawyer (Southern Centre of Excellence) all st,
Primes.-Bylchau: Curran, 2, K. Jones (Wales); 3, CoIl. Horseshoe Pass; Curran,
2, K. Smith (NW Centre of Excellence); 3, N. Hughes (Wales).
Team-Manchester Wheelers, 13-23-34; 2, Scotland, st; 3, E. Mids Centre of Excellence, 13-27-27; 4, Yorks & Humberside Centre of Excellence, st.
1. PAUL CURRAN (Manchester Wh-Austin Trumann) 8-53-52
2. M. Coll (Scotland) st
3. N. Hughes (Wales) at 34sec
4. P. Dennis (Dinnington RC) st
5. S. Porter (Isle of Man) at 2-43
6. A. Johnson (E. Mids Centre of Excellence)
7. K. Jones (Wales)
8. D. Davie (Manchester Wh)
9. V. Smith (Lakeland & Lancashire Div)
10. K. Smith NW Centre of Excellence) all st.
Hills: Norman Hughes (Wales) l4pt; 2, A. Johnson (E. Mids Centre of Excellence) 14; 3, K. Jones (Wales) 13; 4, P. Curran (Manchester Wh) 12; 5, K. Smith (NW Centre of Excellence) 7; 6, P. Dennis (Dinnington RC) 4.
Team: Manchester Wh-Austin Trumann, 26-48.48; 2, Scotland, st; 3, Wales, 26-52-16; 4, Paragon RT, 26-52-29; 5, E. Mids Centre of Excellence, 26-52-41; 6, Southern Centre of Excellence, 26-53-56.
REPORT ROBERT GARBUTT
PHOTOGRAPHS STEVE ROWLAND AND ERIC WHITEHEAD