LINCOLN GRAND PRIX
Paul Curran (Manchester Wheelers-Trumanns Steel) won Sunday's Lincoln Grand Prix for the second year in succession, the only rider to accomplish the feat since Albert Hitchen in 1963 and 1964, but it was not without some acrimony from the man he beat for first place - his team mate Darryl Webster.
Curran had broken away with two laps to go of the 12-lap race, Webster had chased after him, then complained bitterly afterwards that Curran had not sat up and waited for him.
"I gave him the race last year," said Webster. "I was disgusted that he didn't sit up and wait for me. That lost him an ally."
And when questioned by commentator Roger Hobby, he put on a show of petulance that endeared him to nobody.
"Would you say that Curran is a good time triallist?" asked Hobby.
"He is," was the reply.
"Is it your intention to compete against him in Star Trophy events this year?"
It was a pity that such an excellent race should end on a note of sour grapes, for Curran -the Commonwealth Games road champion - is so strong and so knowledgeable that he could pick any race in Britain and win it if he wanted to.
With 100 starters possible, 33 failed to start, and most of the reserves were missing too, leaving 91 to trundle away from the Yarborough Sports Centre, a mile and a half out of Lincoln, for this 100-mile classic that continues to grow in stature.
It was obvious from the start that this was going to be a fast race with people yo-yoing off the back before the race reached the turn-off to Burton village and its severe descent and sharp right-hand bend.
Out into the country and the narrow lanes were filled with riders, while turning on to the echelons began to form. Past the race course the speed grew for ahead lay the cobbled climb of Michaelgate, and everyone wanted to be first.
Stuart Coles (Coldra RC), who is turning out to be something of a hill-climb specialist, was first to the top, ahead of Nick Barnes ('34 Nomads) and Darryl Webster, while behind them the bunch had split in three.
The first crash came just after Burton on the second lap, although not on the descent or the hairpin bend but on a narrow section just after the village. About five of six riders came down, among them Jason Churchill (Dinnington RC) who was kept overnight in hospital for observation and Steve Farrell (GS Strada).
While all this was going on an 11-man break formed: Barnes, Willie Gibb (Scotland), Eamonn Rooney (Alpha RC), Andrew Perks and Nigel Bishop ( Manchester Wheelers); Coles, Deno Davie - the national champion -
Curran, Webster, Brian Smith (Scotland) and David Rayner (Bradford Wheelers), the break gaining 45 seconds.
As the race left the lanes for the A57 once more just before the race course, another crash occurred, with seven or eight riders mixed up with the roadworks and pandemonium setting in.
With the race split to smithereens the break gained momentum, its lead to 55 seconds.
Into Lincoln again Coles sprinted up Michaelgate ahead of Barnes and Curran. There were nine laps to go.
Davie was off the bike for service temporarily when Barnes, Rayner and Coles tried to force a split in the break. They gained 400 metres before being pulled back. There were 39 riders in the chasing group, the rest scattered over a wide area and being threatened of being caught by the juniors in the West Common race who had started five minutes behind them.
On the third climb to the castle and cathedral, Perks was dropped from the break, a muffed gear change and his drinking bottle into his gears putting paid to his chances.
Brian Smith too was temporarily shed, but Coles up front, was in prime-winning form again this time ahead of Webster and Curran.
With the break now down to nine, and Andy Johnson (Sheffield Central) the driving force in the chasing group, the lead of 55 seconds was still being maintained.
Rooney jumped away to take the fourth lap prime, but he was brought back shortly afterwards.
A chase had been set up by Brian Johnson (Wembley RC), Martin Williamson (Scotia CC), Harry Lodge (Chiltern RC) and Bernie Burns (Bradford Wheelers). Once the chasers were caught, so Pete Longbottom (Manchester Wheelers) set up his own chase.
Webster tried a breakaway from the break. He gained 10 seconds, increased it to 12, but was caught by Coles before the prime line at the castle.
Curran, Webster and Coles gained 100 yards on the rest of the break, then Smith slid off the back of the break to join Longbottom, Lodge and Chris Young (Paragon RT) in the new chasing group.
The third crash of the race took place on the Yarborough road with Scotland's Martin Williamson looking the worse for wear.
The chasing four caught the break, and there were now 13 men in the lead with a 44-second advantage. Smith, who had once been part of the original break, was dropped again on the Michaelgate climb, and this was to be for the last time.
Meanwhile, Coles had been winning all the hill primes.
At the start of the ninth lap the break had been honed down to seven - Davie, Barnes, Coles, Longbottom, Webster, Curran and Lodge.
Rooney, Young, Gibb and Bishop were trailing at 1-11, while Rayner had gone back to the bunch, but soon they were to join Rayner in the bunch. The reason for this sudden exodus was an attack by Curran and Webster, brought back swiftly but increasing the race lead to 25.
Webster took service on the foot of the climb, losing 150 metres, before powering back to the break. Then suddenly Davie was down on the ground with Barnes on top of him. A spectator had caused Davie's downfall, and while Barnes got up again to begin a forlorn chase, Davie had abandoned with his knee twisted from the fall.
With the Milk Race only days away, this was a blow that could put him out of the national Tour, and the break was now down to five.
At the top of the hill with two laps left, Coles went for another prime and found himself in the clear. Not relishing the prospect of two laps out on his own, he sat up and waited.
This was the moment that Curran had been waiting for. He stamped hard and opened a gap. Then Webster attacked on the right, now the race was on.
"I attacked then because Coles had been sitting in too much," said Curran afterwards.
"Curran was gone in our minds," said Coles. "I decided to settle for third place instead."
For two laps Manchester Wheeler pursued Manchester Wheeler, and depending on your bias, you either decided that Curran had 31 seconds on Webster, or that Webster was only 31 seconds behind Curran.
Coles, meanwhile had shed Longbottom and Lodge, but was to get caught by Longbottom later on who dropped Lodge. Longbottom was showing some good form for his last-minute selection for the Milk Race.
Webster was a sight to behold, back arched, he was revving at 35mph in pursuit of Curran, whose effortless style was actually pulling away from the 25-mile champion.
Curran had 50 seconds advantage over Webster as they started the last lap, but try as he might, Webster could make no impression. It was going to be a great double for Curran.
He crossed the line to great applause, looking down the road to see where Webster was.
"I didn't feel 100 per cent in the race," Curran said. "I felt as if I was riding on fresh air on that last lap.
Why didn't he wait for Webster?
"It's a bit different after 90 miles of racing. If he had caught me I would have worked with him, then outsprinted him."
It had been a great 32nd Lincoln Grand Prix, with many famous names among the winners. Now Curran's ranks with the very best.
1. PAUL CURRAN (Manchester Wh-Trumanns Steel) 100m
2. D. Webster (Manchester Wh) at 1-15
3. S. Coles (Coldra RC) at 3-1
4. P. Longbottom (Manchester Wh) st
5. S. Cook (VC Etoile) at 4-33
6. N. Bishop (Manchester Wh)
7. N. Barnes ('34 Nomads)
8. W. Gibb (Scotland)
9. R. Kennison (Dinnington RC)
10. R. Spencer (Paragon RT)
11. A. Wilkinson (Port Sunlight Wh)
12. L. Wilkinson (Leeds RRC)
13. M. Kelly (Chesterfield Coureurs)
14. B. Johnson (Wembley RC)
15. H. Lodge (Chiltern RC) at 5-21
16. N. Miller (Dinnington RC) at 5-28
17. A. Johnson (Sheffield Central)
18. B. Burns (Bradford Wh)
19. R. Sutton (Olympia Sport)
20. C. Marshall (Chesterfield Coureurs) at 5-34.
Leading positions in the BCF Star Trophy Competition after three events are:
1. Darryl Webster (Manchester Wh-Trumanns) 36
2. P. Curran (Manchester Wh) 30
3. P. Longbottom (Manchester Wh) 16
4. S. Farrell (GS Strada) 15
5. G. Platts (Charnwood CRC) 14
6. N. Bishop (Manchester Wh) 9
7. S. Coles (Coidra RC) 9
8. K. Smith (Paragon RT) 9
9. D. Spencer (Paragon RT) 7
10. N. Dunn (Ferryhill Wh) 6
11. S. Cook (VC Etolle) 6