VAUX GRAND PRIX
Paul Curran, who looks set to become the first rider to win the Star Trophy competition for three consecutive seasons, led a Manchester Wheelers-Trumans benefit in Sunday's Vaux Grand Prix over a punishing 112-mile course at Stanley, County Durham.
The Commonwealth champion who last won on this course - though not in this event - in 1983, left team-mate Deno Davie, who on Sunday week defends his national amateur road title, on the final climb with 200 yards left to win by six seconds.
A third member of the Wheelers team, Pete Longbottom, recovered superbly to take third place after being off his bike at one stage as clubmate Darryl Webster from whom Curran had taken over the lead a week earlier, had to settle for ninth place, more than 11 minutes adrift.
What must be one of the most demanding Star Trophy courses had seven climbs in as many miles on each lap and hot, humid conditions made things unbearable for many. Out of 60 starters only 15 finished on the same lap and well over 15 minutes separated the first ten.
The first move came on the opening lap when Davie and Jeff Wright (Tyne Velo) attacked with Steve Farrell (CS Strada), Chris Marshall (Chesterfield Coureurs) and Paul Rogers (VC St Raphael).
As Farrell, Marshall and Rogers dropped back, it was Curran, Longbottom and Simon Ball, (Birkenhead North End CC) who got across on the next circuit to form what was to prove the decisive break of five.
Webster and Wayne Randle (Chesterfield Coureurs) tried to get across at one point but the leaders increased the gap steadily until, with just under four laps remaining, Curran and Davie made their escape on the prime hill.
Next time round Wright and Ball were a minute down with Longbottom trailing at another 90 seconds.
Already suffering from tendon trouble, he had stopped to have plasters applied to two blisters on his foot and fought back bravely to catch Ball and Wright after the bell.
Davie had to settle for second place at the line but had already made more than certain of both the Sunderland Machine Design mountains award from Longbottom and Curran, and the Ivan Fairless (Electrical) Hot Spot sprint title from Curran.
Curran was pleased with his latest win, just a week after taking the Welwyn-Hatfield GP. "I was very equally matched with Deno today" he said.
"All the break was working really well together until 50 miles to go, when Peter said he was starting to feel rough."
Davie, for his part, described himself as "anything but disappointed. It was a good, hard fought race on a very tough course.
"It's my best Star Trophy placing so far this season, and one better than last year when I finished third in the Vaux."
Longbottom, for whom little has gone right since the Milk Race, admitted he has been close to packing at one stage. "I had been having tendon trouble, and the blisters almost finished me off."
1. PAUL CURRAN (Manchester Wh.-Trumans) 112m in 4-51.55
2. D. Davie (Manchester Wh.) at 6sec
3. P. Longbottom (Manchester Wh.) at 4-55
4. S. Ball (Birkenhead NE) at 6-3
5. J. Wright (Tyne Velo) at 6-14
6. N. Dunn (Ferryhill Wh.) at 9-47
7. P. Rogers (VO St Raphael) at 9-53
8. C. Roshler (Hounslow & Dist.) at 11-20
9. D. Webster (Manchester Wh.) at 11-27
10. S. Cook (VC Etoile) at 15-2
11. R. Scott (Glasgow Wh.) at 15-4
12. J. Charlesworth (South Yorks RC) at 15-38