Commonwealth Games - TTT Championship
A biting Scottish wind blew away the hopes of most of the contenders in the 100-kilometres team time trial on Friday, but England's quartet of Paul Curran, Keith Reynolds, Alan Gornall and Deno Davie mastered the conditions to lead throughout and win the first gold medal of the 1986 Games.
England's time of 2-13-16 gave them a winning margin of one minute 34 seconds over the fancied New Zealanders Blair Cox, Greg Frame, Paul Leitch and Graeme Miller who earned the silver with a consistent ride, second fastest throughout.
Third were Northern Ireland whose bronze was their first ever cycling medal. Northern Ireland's heroes, Joe Barr, Alastair Irvine, Cormac McCann and Martin Quinn won a tense battle with Australia who were in the bronze medal position for 75 kilometres. But Northern Ireland's power finish gave them a time of 2-16-13, too fast for the Aussies by 28 seconds.
There were tears of joy from the Irish at the finish. Tears, too, from the young Australians for whom the handicap of riding most of the race with three men proved just too much. Their casualty was Murray Donald from semi-tropical Queensland. He suffered cramp in the cold wind and was dropped in the first 20 kilometres.
But this was England's day, they never faltered and never looked in danger of being ousted from top spot.
"It was a good even ride," was how Curran summed up their performance. "It was vicious into the wind. We said before that it would be won on the headwind stretches and if we could keep together into the wind we'd be OK."
Victory was reward for technique as well as strength.
Alan Gornall revealed: "We didn't know where we were in relation to the other teams for the first two laps. We didn't want to be given any time checks until we'd settled into our own rhythm. Then, when we knew where we were, we could keep it smooth."
Twelve teams started the test on an out-and-home course based on five laps of the dual carriageway Edinburgh by-pass, with a loop on undulating country roads each time. There were no major climbs, and the main uphill drag was on a wind-assisted section.
Despite the fact that the Games organisers had done their best to keep the course a secret, a reasonable crowd filled the roadside grandstand, and although it was too cold for comfort, particularly if you were from the Southern Hemisphere, the sun kept breaking through.
First off were Malawi, their off-the-peg Raleighs contrasting with the exotic machinery of the other teams, most of them equipped with disc rear wheels.
Before going into their five full laps the teams had a five-kilometre loop. The pattern was already emerging, England fastest at five kilometres, New Zealand and Canada both at three seconds, Australia at five seconds, Isle of Man at 21 seconds, and Northern Ireland down in sixth place at 22 seconds on unofficial timings.
Wales, who had been joint seventh with Scotland then hit trouble. John Evans simultaneously punctured both his front and back tyres. The team did not wait and after changing both wheels Evans set off in pursuit.
"I caught them just as they turned on to the 'B' roads," Evans said, "But we just couldn't get our rhythm again and then into the headwind I got blown out of the back."
The Manxmen, too, were down to three riders. Peter Kennaugh was brought to a halt when his front changer bolt snapped and the cage got caught up with his chain and rear wheel.
By half distance only five of the 12 starters had complete teams, Hong Kong, Scotland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and England. Soon Hong Kong and Scotland were down to three and then crucially New Zealand lost Blair Cox with more than two 19-kilometre laps to go.
England meanwhile were giving it everything. Their white and red jerseys darkened with sweat as they smoothly extended their lead over New Zealand from 1-16 at half distance to 1-38 at 75 kilometres.
England, the defending champions, were to lose Reynolds with 12½ kilometres to go. But this was no disgrace after a hard driving ride.
Northern Ireland were closing on Australia. The Irish had trained hard but had never ridden or raced the full 100 kilometres as a team. Nevertheless they were the last team to shed a man.
Manager Morris Foster had told his men to "bury" themselves. Cormac McCann did just that. He shouldered much of the work on the final lap and on the long drag to the finish had to drop back utterly exhausted and unable to hold his line.
England finished with a flourish, last team to start, they caught the Aussies in the closing kilometres after starting three minutes behind them. The scrap may have helped the Aussies to squeeze a little more speed from tired legs. But it was to no avail and Northern Ireland duly clinched the bronze
Taken as an inter-regional battle, the British Isles took the honours with first and third to Oceanias second and fourth. North America was fifth thanks to Canada's 2-18-19, and another of the British Isles, the Isle of Man (2-21-15) was a fine sixth.
Host nation Scotland lost Dave Hannah and finished a disappointing seventh (2-22-49) just ahead of Wales (2-26-27).
It only remained for Scotland's Arthur Campbell to present medals to the top three teams. From the top position on the podium Curran, Davie, Gornall and Reynolds acknowledged the richly deserved applause of the crowd having proved worthy successors to Waugh, Downs, Lawrence and Elliott, our winners at Brisbane in 1982.
Most competitors in the team time trial favoured disc rear wheels and low-profile machines. Odd man out was England's Paul Curran. He said he has still to be convinced of the advantages claimed for disc wheels and also felt they could be a hazard in Friday's strong wind.
1. ENGLAND (Paul Curran, Deno Davie, Alan Gornall,
Keith Reynolds) 2 13 16
2. NEW ZEALAND (Cox, Frame, Leitch, Millar) 2 14 50
3. NORTHERN IRELAND (Barr, Irvine, McCann, Quinn) 2 16 13
4. AUSTRALIA (Donald, Dwiar, Leslie, Rooney) 2 16 41
5. CANADA (Deslongchamps, Murray, Spicer, Waddell) 2 18 19
6. ISLE OF MAN (Fletcher, Kelly, Kennaugh, Porter) 2 21 15
7. SCOTLAND (Clark, Hannah, Little, Melrose) 2 22 49
8. WALES (Coles, Evans, Hughes, Jones) 2 26 27
9. HONG KONG (Choy, Chow, Hui, Law) 2 30 39
10. GUERNSEY (Brown, Davies, Rhodes, Sheard) 2 52 33
11. CAYMAN ISLANDS (Ebanks, Ebanks, Merren, Pascall) 2 52 33
12. MALAWI (Chimwaza, Kaswanga, Nayeja, Yusufu) 2 55 52
England 32 33
N. Zealand at 3lsec
Australia at 33sec
N. Ireland at 40sec
Canada at 1-0
Scotland at 1.29
Isle of Man at 2-1
Wales at 3-39
Hong Kong at 4-18
Guernsey at 4-36
Cayman Is at 6-34
Malawi at 9-6
England 1 5 4
N.Zealand at 1-16
Australia at 1-32
N. Ireland at 1-52
Canada at 2-19
Scotland at 3-59
Isle of Man at 4-47
Wales at 6-8
Hong Kong at 8-41
Guernsey at 9-43
Caymanls at 13-16
Malawi at 19-47
England 1 38 23
N. Zealand at 1-38
Australia at 2-27
N. Ireland at 2-34
Canada at 3-46
Scotland at 6-0
Isle of Man at 6-50
Wales at 9-22
Hong Kong at 12-54
Guernsey at 14-44
Cayman Is at 21-8
Malawi at 30-35
England 2 13 16
N. Zealand at 1-34
N. Ireland at 2-57
Australia at 3-25
Canada at 5-3
Isle of Man at 7-59
Scotland at 9-33
Wales at 13-11
Hong Kong at 17-23
Guernsey at 17-31
Cayman Is at 39-17
Malawi at 42-36
REPORT MARTIN AYRES PICTURES DANNY McCLURE