Lincoln Grand Prix
Man of the moment Paul Curran (Manchester Wheelers-Trumanns Steel) scored a resounding lone victory in Sunday's 100-mile Lincoln Grand Prix, the fourth counting event in the Star Trophy series.
A fast pace, strong winds, heavy rain and the slippery 1-in-6 cobbled hill of Michaelgate to be climbed 11 times, eventually tore the 106-rider field apart in this VC Lincoln promotion.
The record-size field enjoyed closed roads and first rate cooperation from Lincoln Council and the police. It resulted in a cracking race and more headaches for the selectors as so many talented riders dazzled in the rain in the struggle for glory and selection for the Milk Race and the Commonwealth Games.
Curran, the recent winner of the French Circuit des Mines, had nothing to prove as he crossed the line alone for a splendid victory, except to reinforce his claim as top rider in the UK. After 100 miles Curran was chased home by race revelation Stuart Coles on a creaking, collapsing back wheel.
Welshman Coles, at 19 the youngest rider in the race, is the 1985 Peter Buckley Trophy winner. The Coldra RC rider took second place at 1-13, ahead of Darryl Webster (Manchester Wheelers) who made no attempt to sprint for the line in Lincoln's shopping precinct.
Webster, last year' s winner, settled for third place and the King of the Castle prize after forcing the pace for most of the event.
He had the first run for freedom after 78 miles, surprising his five breakaway companions by changing machines, swapping his road bike for a lighter time trial model.
But Webster's bid was immediately countered and Webster told Curran: "I haven't got it today -it's yours."
It was 30mph plus within the first mile and Webster pounded up the half-mile 1-in-6 Michaelgate. He led the bunch rattling over the cobbles to take the first of several primes in the square, racing between William the Conqueror's castle on one side and the 11th century cathedral which dominates this old Roman city on the other.
Webster the would-be-conqueror split the race in two unequal groups and sent 14 more off the back and there was still 94 miles to go as the race left the city by the Roman Newport Arch for another 8½-mile lap.
The 60 leaders were chased by 29 on the tricky descent through Burton Village.
In two more miles they burst onto the wide A57 to speed in echelons in traffic-free splendour back to the city centre where once again Webster took the hill-top prime, holding off Coles.
The cobbled hill broke more men leaving roughly 20 men in front and 20 men chasing, only 15 seconds between them. A lap later Coles took the third ascent off Webster and news came of the other names in that front group now swelled to about 25 riders.
Curran was there, and so too was Star Trophy leader Alan Gornall, Keith Reynolds (Paragon RT), John Tonks (Wolverhampton Wheelers), David Spencer (East Midlands Centre of Excellence), the Tour of Lancashire winner, Jonathan Clay (Leeds RRC) one of the Peace Race team included at the last moment, plus Paul Dennis, winner of the Launa Windows three-day and the man he beat, Peter Georgi (Mid-Devon RC).
Webster was storming and up Michaelgate for the fourth time, he led Coles away and Reynolds jumped across to them. The three men gained 10 seconds by Burton Village a few miles on.
They dived through the wet corners and emerged from the lanes to head for the old Lincoln race course grandstand on the A57, and were joined alongside this exposed stretch by Steve Porter (Manx RC).
Their lead was only 20 seconds at Lincoln with five laps gone (40 miles). Webster soared to the prime yet again, while the two chasing groups fought to limit their gain.
One hero among many was Cayn Theakston (Hull Thursday RC), who punctured in the second group on Michaelgate for the second time. Yet he rejoined to lead the pursuit, which eventually closed the 15-second gap on the main bunch.
The fury in there knew no bounds and four miles later they had the Webster party back under lock and key in a 50-strong group at just over half-way.
With 67 miles gone, 33 to go, Clay took the seventh climb of Michaelgate and drew Reynolds and Curran after him. It was the first major move as Webster, Coles and ill-fated Andrew Wilkinson (Port Sunlight Wheelers) and Gary Coltman (Zenith CC) joined up to make seven good men.
They gained 1-9 on a 19-strong chasing group led by hard-working Gornall brothers, Alan and Mark.
Then Wilkinson crashed heavily near the race course and lost 45 seconds on the leaders. Undaunted, he gave chase, blood showing through his torn shorts. Incredibly he charged back to get within 50 yards of them at the base of the climb with three laps to go. He passed struggling Clay who was dropped on the cobbles, to retire at the top, and then pulled his foot out of the toe-clip. But not even this, nor pausing to adjust his saddle height with the quick-release lever could prevent Wilkinson from rejoining the front after six miles.
Webster meanwhile had changed bikes and now he attacked with 22 miles to go switching to the right gutter in the cross wind on the wide A57.
His move didn't work and so Curran attacked. Coles joined him and Webster drew breath and jumped after him leaving the other three to their fate.
As Coles took the prime, Reynolds struck out alone to try and reach them. It was a move doomed to failure in the windy conditions and a chasing group of 14 men picked him up in a last-gasp attempt.
With just over a lap to go Curran was clear. He found himself free as Webster eased on the pedals to leave daylight between himself and his team-mate, a move designed to unhook from the winner's train.
It was a silent message Curran understood and he powered clear as Coles chased and Webster jumped for his tail.
So Curran took the last climb in the town centre, the 11th ascent of the cobbled hill, and Webster tried unsuccessfully to leave Coles over the summit. Reynolds was caught by the chasers at the foot of the ascent and although they closed a two-minute gap to 1-32 on Curran on the line, and only 19 seconds on Webster-Coles, they came too late as the sun at last poked through the clouds. Tonks took fourth place ahead of Karl Smith (Clayton Velo) and seven others who had given their all.
Paul Curran explained the winning move: "I never actually attacked," he said. Darryl sat up. It was very sporting of him. So I put my head down and got a decent lead."
Darryl Webster reckoned he had done too much and lost the edge. "I wanted to win the lot. You can only try. But I hadn't got it in me. I didn't contest second place. Stuart deserved it. He's a young lad and he'd ridden really well. And winning is the only thing that matters to me."
Stuart Cole has now ridden three Star Trophy events in his first season as a senior. "I was going really, really well until about one-and-a-half laps to go. If it had been a lap less I probably would have won it. My wheel collapsed on the cobbled climb with a lap to go. I could have gone with Paul, but they were leaving gaps and I had to close them. That's the way it goes, there were two of them. My main aim is to ride the Commonwealth Games but I wouldn't mind the Milk Race.
1. PAUL CURRAN (Manchester Wh-Trumanns) l00m in 3-53-30
2. S. Coles (Coldra RC) at 1-13
3. D. Webster (Manchester Wh)
4. J. Tonks (Wolverhampton Wh) at 1-32
5. K. Smith (Clayton Velo)
6. E. Rooney (Alpha RC)
7. B. Smith (Johnston Wh)
8. C. Lillywhite (Dinnington RC)
9. P. Rogers (VC St Raphael)
10. M. Gornall (Manchester Wh)
11. A. Perks (Manchester Wh)
12. G. Baker (Anglia Sport) all st
13. A. Gornall (Manchester Wh)
14. T. Morgan (VC Mewdon)
15. G. Coltman (Zenith CC) at 4-15
16. A. Wilkinson (Port Sunlight Wh)
17. K. Reynolds (Paragon RT) both st
18. B. Burns (Bradford Wh) at 5-15
19. C. Marshall (Chesterfield Cour)
20. J. Shand (VC d'Or) both st.
Stonebow Sprint. - D. Webster (Manchester Wh) 20pts; 2,
Curran 8; 3, Coles 6.
King of the Castle. - Webster; 2, Curran; 3, Coles.
Leading positions in the Star Trophy competition after the Lincoln Grand Prix on Sunday are:
Paul Curran (Manchester Wh-Trumanns) 24
C. Lillywhite (Dinnington RC) 22
A. Gornall (Manchester Wh) 20
G. Newton (Dinnington RC) 16
J. Cavanagh (Horwich CC) 15
W. Randle (Chesterfield Cour) 15
P. Bateman (Chesterfield Cour) 13
S. Cook (Calleva CRC) 12
S. Coles (Coldra RC) 12
D. Webster (Manchester Wh) 11