NATIONAL Amateur Road Race Championship
Paul Curran (Manchester Wheelers-Trumanns Steel), the strongest rider in British amateur cycling, won Sunday's BCF national amateur road race title at Hyde in Cheshire, by riding away from the opposition in the closing miles of the 116 ½-mile race.
Curran, winner of the Commonwealth Games title last year, and all set to win the Star Trophy competition for the third successive year, always looked a winner and made his bid for victory with three laps to go.
He and Gary Baker (Anglia Sport), chased after Andy Hurford (Ashfield BC) who had escaped from the break, then caught and dropped him a lap later. Curran dealt a similar blow to Baker on the final lap to ride in alone 1-16 ahead of Baker, with Nick Barnes ('34 Nomads) taking third place, 1-33 down.
This Hyde Olympic CC promotion lacked for nothing, except good weather, but was marred in the closing miles when defending champion Deno Davie (Manchester Wheelers) collided with a car when trying to bridge a gap to the break.
He added more cuts and bruises to those collected during a midweek crash, then disappeared quickly from the scene soon afterwards.
This demanding course, with its 77 hilly miles in the Peak District before tackling seven laps of a 6 ½-mile circuit in Hyde, earned immediate respect with the vital break taking place at Glossop, just three miles after the start.
In it were Curran, Baker, Barnes, Chris Young (Paragon RT), Russell Scott (Glasgow Wheelers), Russell Fenton (VC d'Or), Richard Buttress (Tame Valley) and Roger Dunne (Anglia Sport), all aware of the climbs of Chunal and the Snake Pass just ahead.
Buttress and Dunne were dropped from the break before they reached the climbs, then Buttress became the first to abandon the race.
With the lead at 1-8 Paul Brown (Paragon RT), Hurford and Richard Bradley (Olympia Sport) gave chase. They didn't succeed and a new chase of Hurford, Bradley, Nick Noble (Team Zoyland), Phil Bateman (Chesterfield Coureurs), Eamonn Roony (Alpha RC), Tim Stevens ('34 Nomads) and Andy Johnson (Sheffield RT) set off in pursuit, then joined the break to swell it to 13-strong.
News then came through that Keith Jones (Coldra RC) had crashed with a broken crank somewhere in the Peak Forest area.
Everyone, it seemed, wanted a piece of the action and at the Ladybower Reservoir the break had a lead of 1-45 on a chasing group of Tim Schools (CC Bowland), Bernie Burns (Bradford Wheelers), David Fergusson (North Lancs RC), Paul Brown (Paragon RT), Neil Miller (Dinnington RC) and Lee Masefield (Qlympia Sport). Another chase was being led from the bunch by Darryl Webster (Manchester Wheelers), John Tonks (Manx Viking Wheelers) and Harry Lodge (Chiltern RC).
Webster's trio soon caught the chasers in front of him on the Snake Pass, with the break at 1-55, but the speed put paid to Burns who was dropped before the descent into Glossop.
Barnes, Bateman and Stevens decided it was a good time to leave the break, but they only reached 24 seconds before being reeled in.
Scott, Rooney and Johnson were shed from the break on the climb out of Glossop to Crowden, then it was Noble's turn to say farewell on the same climb next time round, and he was left to be picked up by the chasers.
Webster and Tonks were too fast for the rest of the chasers and they soon left to pursue the break on their own. On the 40mph descent into Hyde they had brought the lead down to 30 seconds and just before the finish line in Hyde they had caught the bunch.
Curran and Baker were in the right half of the break when it split only to be brought back by Webster as they completed the second lap of the finishing circuit.
Hurford broke away with three laps to go, gaining 32 seconds on the break, with the remains of the bunch at 52 seconds.
In the past few weeks Curran has shown his liking for working from small groups rather than large ones, and when the bunch finally caught the remains of the break he decided it was time to go.
Baker was in agreement with this too and he took off with Curran to catch Hurford just before the roundabout turn to Hyde and a 47mph descent.
Hurford was given another lap with Curran and Baker before being dropped, and then Curran decided it was time to go it alone, and Baker was left to his fate.
Steve Cooke (VC Etoile), and Colin Roshier (Hounslow and District) joined forces with Hurford to give chase but were swept up by the bunch as they headed for the last lap.
There was no stopping Curran now, and the man who has beaten the best in the Commonwealth, knew he had the beating of the best of the British.
Curran, who has been using his victory salute to such good effect during the past few weeks, knew exactly what to do as he headed towards the line, and to the delight of the big crowd waiting in the rain - some as wet inside as out, thanks to the extended licensing hours-he raised two arms in a clenched fist salute.
"When we went away early on I thought we would be brought back," explained Curran afterwards. "The real racing began on the finishing circuit and when the break was caught it was time to go.
"When Gary and I caught Andy Hurford I attacked on a hill and we got rid of him. Gary and I worked together.
"I was prepared for the climbs of Chunal and the Snake Pass but the hills on the finishing circuit just kept coming and coming."
Baker, a former national junior champion, said that the course was too hilly for him, but a good test for a national championship.
"It was 90 per cent and 10 per cent when I was with Paul. He did 90 per cent and I did 10 per cent. He was too strong for me and he is a world-class rider."
"I was worrying about the Manchester Wheelers team work," said bronze-medallist Barnes. "That's why I went with the early break. It's my first 100-mile race since the Tour of Holland and I was blowing a bit the first time on the finishing circuit."
1. PAUL CURRAN (Manchester Wh-Trumanns Steel) 116
½m in 4-54-34
2. G. Baker (Anglia Sport) at 1-16
3. N. Barnes ('34 Nomads) at 1-33
4. S. Cooke (VC Etoile)
5. J. Tonks (Manx Viking Wh)
6. T. Stevens ('34 Nomads)
7. N. Bishop (Manchester Wh)
8. P. Bateman (Chesterfield Cour)
9. A. Hurford (Ashfield BC)
10. C. Roshier (Hounslow & Dist)
11. D. Webster (Manchester Wh)
12. C. Young (Paragon RT) all st
13. W. Randle (Chesterfield Cour)
14. P. Sheard (Bradford Wh)
15. P. Tighe (Scunthorpe Poly)
16. N. Dunn (Ferryhill Wh)
17. R. Fenton (VC d'Or)
18. P. Longbottom (Manchester Wh)
19. P. Maxwell (Liverpool Merc) all at 2-35
20. R. Bradley (Olympia Sport) at 5-44
21. M. Coll (Johnstone Wh) at 10-7
22. G. Speight (Chesterfield Cour) at 10-28
23. H. Lodge (Chiltern RC) at 18-16
24. N. Miller (Dinnington RC) st
25. R. Dunne (Anglia Sport) at 25-23.
REPORT DENNIS DONOVAN. PICTURES DAVID WORTHY