BRISTOL GRAND PRIX
Paul Curran (Manchester Wheelers) scored a Star Trophy hat-trick when he won Sunday's 106-mile Royal Mail Bristol Grand Prix with a characteristic lone break over the last 12 miles. It was his third victory in as many weeks and with only two events in the series to go, his position at the top looks invincible.
"I'm always happy to stay away by myself," he said, "that was more or less the same place that (1986 winner) Graeme Miller went away last year. He went away on the hill. I went away slightly before it and apart from the hill and a few more drags it's mainly downhill all the way to the finish."
One minute behind Curran, the battle for the minor places delighted the crowds at the finish in Prince Street as the disparate chasing groups and what was left of the bunch came home in a series of close sprints.
Second place was taken by a revived Pete Longbottom (Manchester Wheelers), troubled by tendonitis since the Milk Race, who edged out on-form Colin Roshier (Hounslow & District Wheelers) on the line. Paul Rogers (VC St Raphael) led in the next group while Darryl Webster and Deno Davie completed a successful day for the Manchester Wheelers coming in 7th and 10th.
Rogers was the highest placed survivor from an original breakaway group of 19 riders who formed soon after the start. Three riders went clear as soon as the neutrailsed flag was dropped and it was not long before others began to clip off the front. When the race turned left into the roller-coaster lanes of the Mendip foothills, Andy Cook (Chiltern RC), Roger Dunne (Anglia Sport) and Philip Leigh (CC Bowland) had been joined by six chasers who fancied their chances in the sheltered surroundings.
Cook touched a wheel and fell but he soon joined up with another chasing group which caught the front runners at the Chew Valley Lakes after 12 miles. Favourites among the 19 included Steve Farrell (GS Strada), Wayne Randle (Chesterfield Coureurs), John Tonks (Manx Viking Wheelers) and Gary Baker (Anglia Sport).
The bunch was still in sight at 35 seconds but they appeared unconcerned and by the top of the first prime hill at Burrington, won by Farrell, the lead was 1-20 after 22 miles. Over the next 35 miles, apart from the loss of three riders from the front the most notable of who was David Barnett (Coldra) who broke a spoke, the lead hovered between 50 seconds and 1-40.
Randle won the second prime from Farrell at Somerton after 58 miles as the bunch began to stir. On the long descent out of Glastonbury after 65 miles they made contact with the rear of the break. It wasn't long, however before it split again.
Through Wells (70 miles) a group of five including Tonks, Farrell, Baker and Neil Hoban ('34 Nomads) led the field by 50 seconds. Farrell won the prime at the top of Wells hill and on the descent the break was graced with the presence of Curran and Davie who had blasted across the gap. With a chasing group of nine including Longbottom, Webster, Rogers and Dunne, about to make contact, the race was now moving into its final stages
The bunch drifted to 1-50 as attacks grew from the 16-strong leaders. Baker, Lodge, Tonks, they all tried but none could escape the attentions of the four Manchester Wheelers. Davie, Curran and Webster all had a go, the string had to break eventually and it was Curran who tugged at the right moment. It came on the flat valley approach just before the last prime at Redhill, the others had had enough and the increasingly familiar figure the lone Curran pulled away once again.
Farrell, who had looked like a contender for victory, blew spectacularly on Redhill, getting off his bike as the break split in pursuit of Curran. Along the Long Ashton by-pass with three miles to go Roshier went clear with Longbottom to record his highest Star Trophy placing while Curran maintained a steady 40mph over the final tailwind assisted miles.
1. PAUL CURRAN (Manchester Wh-Trumans Steel) l00m
2. P. Longbottom (Manchester Wh) at 52 sec
3. C. Roshier (Hounslow & Dist.) st
4. P. Rogers (VC St Raphael) at 1-0
5. N. Dunn (Ferryhill Wh) st
6. J. Tonks (Manx Viking Wh) at 1-12
7. D. Webster (Manchester Wh)
8. D. Barnett (Coldra RC) all st
9. P. Sheard (Bradford Wh) at 1-38
10. D. Davie (Manchester Wh)
11. G. Baker (Anglia Sport)
12. H. Lodge (Chiltern RC) all st.
REPORT LUKE EDWARDS-EVANS
PICTURES PHOTOSPORT INTERNATIONAL