Commonwealth Games - Road Race Championship
England's Paul Curran was a deserving winner of the 105-mile road race on Saturday, beating New Zealand's Brian Fowler and Australia's Jeff Leslie for the gold medal in one of the most impressive displays seen for many a year.
He went for a seemingly suicidal lone break with three seven-mile laps to go of the wet and windy Edinburgh by-pass circuit, was caught by Fowler and Leslie with a lap to go, then sprinted neatly through the inside at the finish to land his second gold medal of the Games.
In a week when there had been a few dissensions on the track, there were none at the finish of this tough race that produced only 35 survivors, for riders and spectators alike were unanimous in praising the small man from Cleveland, whose career had become better and better each year since he switched from being a track rider to a roadman.
Stuart Coles and Norman Hughes launched an early attack for Wales but their nine-second lead was soon halted.
With five laps covered 16 men made their way off the front of the bunch: Alastair Irvine and Cormac McCann (Northern Ireland); Steve Porter (Isle of Man); Craig Griffen, Graeme Miller, Brian Fowler and Stephen Cox (New Zealand); Stephen Hodge and Jeff Leslie (Australia); Paul Curran, Chris Lillywhite, Deno Davie (England); Stuart Coles (Wales), Brian Smith (Scotland), Ross Chafe (Canada), and Tony Cornic (Jersey), but Cornic was to puncture leaving 15 in the lead.
They gained a lead of 25 seconds, improved it to 33 seconds two laps later, and then lost Davie through mechanical trouble. He trailed off the back of the group, 30 seconds down, but by the end of the lap was back on.
With four New Zealand riders in the break, Leslie decided to attack for Australia but Coles countered and their advantage was never more than 15 seconds before they were pulled back.
Scottish, Isle of Man and New Zealand hearts skipped a beat when Brian Smith, Mike Kelly and Stephen Cox made a bid for freedom after the field had surprisingly come together again at 70 miles.
A hard chase by Curran, Leslie and Graeme Miller (New Zealand) pulled that back and they were joined by Fowler and Hodge to make an eight-man break.
In this ever-changing, absorbing road race, this break was to end also, with a fresh attack by Drew Wilson (Scotland), Deno Davie (England), Cox and inevitably, Curran.
Curran attacked, Cox chased, but Curran went into the traffic island 12 seconds clear.
For two laps Curran was to stay out on his own, never more than 30 seconds ahead of Fowler and Leslie in hot pursuit, although it was the New Zealander doing most of the work. From 23 seconds, Curran's lead began to come down. Eighteen seconds, 10 seconds and nine seconds at the bell for the last lap. But still he refused to accept the inevitable.
With four miles to go he was caught at last, but he still had plenty in reserve, taking his turn at the pace-making as the finish loomed nearer.
There was just one and a half miles to go when Curran attacked on the rise from the final turn. It was brief and quickly countered by Fowler and Leslie. It was to be a three-man sprint.
Fowler headed for the line first, taking former Aussie sprint champion Leslie completely by surprise. Curran was a length or two back, seemingly out of the gold medal. He suddenly sprinted hard, and. passed Fowler on the sheltered inside for a famous victory.
A great win, congratulations, but why go with three laps remaining?
"I felt good early on and better as the race went on," said the champion. "With three laps to go there was too much messing about and I got the gap easily. I wanted to keep out in front.
"With one and a half laps left I felt tired, but they eased and I got the jump on them. I eased up as I had a touch of cramp.
"Coming up to the finish I dropped off the back and was going to take a flyer. I don't know why Fowler left the gap, but it was on the sheltered side and that was it.
"I couldn't believe it that I was over the line first. I was most worried about Fowler as he had beaten me in all the Star Trophy races this year. My best-ever win? I should say
One of the rides of the day came from the British road race champion, Deno Davie. Dropped early on with mechanical trouble he fought his way back to the break then worked hard at the head of the bunch to slow down the pursuit after his team captain, Paul Curran. He completed a great day by finishing fourth.
If there was to be a team prize it would have gone to New Zealand with Brian Fowler second, Graeme Miller third, Stephen Cox seventh and Craig Griffen 11th, but England would have been second, thanks to Curran (first), Davie (fourth), Alan Gornall (ninth) and Chris Lillywhite (10th).
1. PAUL CURRAN (England) 105m in 4-8-50
2. Brian Fowler (New Zealand)
3. Jeff Leslie (Australia) both st
4. D. Davie (Eng) at 2-29
5. G. Miller (NZ) st
6. S. Hodge (Aust) at 2-31
7. S. Cox (NZ) at 2-35
8. A. Wilson (Scot) at 3-39
9. A. Gornall (Eng) at 3-45
10. C. Lillywhite (Eng) at 3-56
11. C. Griffen (NZ at 3-57
12. S. Cobs (Wales) at 4-6
13. C. McCann (NI) at 4.18
14. B. Smith (Scot) at 5-18
15. K. Jones (Wales) at 5-35
16. S. Porter (IoM) at 5-36
17. P. Sheard (Guernsey) st
18. R. Fletcher (IoM) at 5-37
19. G. Rioux (can) at 5-38
20. T.Cornic (Jersey) st
21. R. Versteegh (Aust) at 5-40
22. S. Downey (NI) at 5-41
23. R. Melrose (Scot) at 5-56
24. A. Irvine (NI) at 10-24
25. A. Nicholson (IoM) at 24-54
26. I. Brown (Guernsey)
27. I. Chivers (NI) both st
28. T. Aubert (Jer) at 26-48
29. M. Lawson (Scot) at 27-45
30. M. Kelly (IoM) at 1 lap
31. R. Chafe (Can)
32. C. Hui (Hong Kong)
33. S. Law (HK)
34. V. Choy (HK)
35. T. Chow (HK).