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Circuit des Mines

Curran wins Circuit des Mines - Tonks is third

Britain's Paul Curran fought off a challenge from former Tour de France star, Rene Bittinger, to win the Circuit des Mines stage race in France, with John Tonks third, Deno Davie sixth, and Greg Newton 16th.

Wayne Randle crashed and broke his arm, while David Williams hit a pothole, crashed on his head and fractured his skull.

"It was exceptional riding by Curran and Tonks, and had Tonks not fallen off in the time trial he would have finished second overall," said manager Albert Hitchen. "Tonks was matching all the top men in the hills.

"They both had solid back-up from Newton and Davie. Newton came straight from the Tour of Flanders, still suffering from a bad chest, arriving at 5am after a train and taxi journey, and in effect, rode solidly for 12 days. Davie was holding third place, then lost it, but held on to sixth place in the end.

"Randle was shaping well, but the crash meant that he will have to have a plate in his arm. He's a tough rider and in five or six weeks could be riding again seriously.

"Williams discharged himself after two days - he said he was fed up with the hospital. Both are back home again now."


Newton was the best of the British in the 2.6-kilometre uphill time trial, clocking 3-19.0 to the winner's 3-15. Randle was 16th, Williams 36th, while Davie and Curran just rolled round for 69th and 73rd places respectively.

Tonks crashed and lost more than 30 seconds, finishing last-but-one of the 89 starters in 4-6.0, a fact that he was to pay for later.

Stage 1

It was on the first stage of 162 kilometres that Williams fractured his skull. He hit a pothole, his back wheel collapsed and he turned a somersault to land on his head. He was taken to a nearby hospital.

Curran caught an 11-rider break with 20-kilometres to go, to finish fourth. Tonks was 12th, Randle 37th, Newton 48th and Davie 54th. Overall Curran was ninth at 18 seconds, Newton 17th, Randle 22nd, Davie 47th and Tonks 56th.

1. ?
4. Paul Curran (GB)

Stage 2 TT

Stage two was an 18-kilometre time trial in the morning when Curran finished eighth, Davie 17th, Tonks 22nd, Randle 31st and Newton 41st. Curran's 27-44, compared to the winner's 27.6, pushed him up to sixth place overall, Davie 16th, Randle 22nd, Newton 32nd and Tonks 36th.

1. ? 27-06
8. Paul Curran (GB) 27-44

Stage 3

The afternoon stage was 117 kilometres from Anneville to Metz and was won by Tonks, with Curran taking the race lead, with Davie second. Davie, Curran and Tonks were in an early eight-man break which gained 1-37 on the bunch, due to some team time trialling with the help of the Dane Krunborg.

On this hot stage, Tonks jumped away on the finishing circuit to beat Krunborg in the sprint. Davie was fifth, Curran eighth and Newton 20th in the bunch.

As a result, Curran took over the race lead, with Davie second, Tonks 12th and Newton 32nd. Although the team were elated with Tonk's win and Curran becoming race leader, they were saddened when Randle crashed out of the race after hitting the barriers on the finishing circuit and breaking his arm.

1. John Tonks (GB)
8. Paul Curran (GB)

Stage 4

The fourth stage was won in a solo break, with Curran winning the bunch sprint for fifth place to stay leader. Tonks moved to 11th with an 11th place on the stage, while Davie stayed second with 32nd place, and Newton's 15th place moving him to 23rd overall. Great Britain were still holding on to the team award.

1. ?
5. Paul Curran (GB)

Stage 5

A big challenge came on the fifth stage from the Lorraine team, headed by former professional Rene Bittinger. Bittinger, a stage winner in the 1979 Tour de France, and a one-time contemporary of Sean Kelly, had reverted to amateur again after turning professional in 1977.

His reputation didn't bother Curran, and although the Frenchman dominated the stage, Curran was there at the finish to take second place to Bittinger and keep his overall lead.

Tonks was 32nd, Newton 39th and Davie 47th. Davie dropped to third overall, Tonks stayed at 12th, while Newton moved up a place to 22nd.

1. Rene Bittinger (Fr)
2. Paul Curran (GB)

Stage 6

The penultimate stage had a hilltop finish, and was the one that Curran won last year when he finished second overall. It was a keen tussle between Tonks and Bittinger, with Tonks coming out best.

He was in a five-man break that contained Bittinger and Curran, and on the final climb he jumped away. Bittinger dropped Curran in his pursuit of Tonks, caught the Midland rider, then tried to drop him. Tonks jumped again and headed for victory, six seconds clear of Bittinger.

Overall, Curran was still in the lead. Bittinger was second at 1-31, Tonks third at 3-4, Davie sixth at 4-40, and Newton now 16th at 7-41. Great Britain led the team and the points through Curran, with Tonks fourth in this classification.

1. John Tonks (GB)
2. Rene Bittinger (Fr)
3. Paul Curran (GB)

Stage 7

The final stage was 105 kilometres over rolling, undulating countryside, and the French combines came into play.

After a lone break by a Dane had been brought back by Curran and Tonks, Bittinger made his move. Curran matched him and six men went clear, with Tonks joining Curran and Bittinger.

Bittinger attacked on the last hill, then after he was brought back, he attacked again to win. Tonks was second in the bunch sprint, but the Great Britain team had survived a hard day and scored a great victory with Curran the overall winner, Tonks third, Davie sixth and Newton sixth. Although they lost the points competition, they were the best team.

1. Rene Bittinger (Fr)
2. John Tonks (GB)


2. Rene Bittinger (Fr) at 1-31
3. John Tonks (GB) at 3-4

Team: Great Britain