NATIONAL Hill Climb Championship
After taking all the major road race honours again this year, Paul Curran turned his attentions to time trialling on Sunday with devastating effect in the RTTC national hill-climb championship at Rosedale Chimney, North Yorkshire.
If anyone still doubted the national road race champion's ability to win at will, then this latest title victory should convince any cynic, even if the Manchester Wheeler's advantage was only a slender fifth of a second over his team-mate, Chris Boardman.
Whereas Curran began his winning ways back in March with the Grand Prix of Essex, Boardman has only reached peak form at the close of his first season in the senior ranks.
Pre-race favourite Steve Marchant failed to improve on his run of four successive silver medals and after collecting a bronze the '34 Nomad said: "At least it is a different colour."
Although Marchant rode to the best of his ability, he was no match for the severity of the hill, 1-in-6 to start, then 1-in-3 around a double hairpin and up the long following straight, only levelling out slightly just before the finish.
This Hull Thursday RG promotion was the first open race up these demanding slopes and their efforts were a credit to the Yorkshire RTTC.
For just under five and a half minutes on Sunday morning Paul Curran suffered like never before up a hill, but by the summit of Rosedale Chimney in North Yorkshire, he had done enough to snatch the RTTC national hill-climb championship by the slenderest of margins from his Manchester Wheelers team-mate, Chris Boardman.
Only one fifth of a second separated the two internationals after 400 yards of 1-in-6 and a further 800 yards of 1-in-3, in what most agreed was one of the toughest-ever title races. It left the pair in a class of their own, over eight seconds clear of the rest of the field led in by pre-race favourite, Steve Marchant ('34 Nomads).
Unlike Curran and Boardman, Marchant opted for a fixed-wheel, but he did not blame this for his defeat and was reasonably happy with his effort which was 13 seconds faster than the next best rider, Phil Sheard (Bradford Wheelers).
With Pete Longbottom, fifth, the Manchester Wheelers had little trouble retaining the team title, following last year's success when Darryl Webster led Curran and Longbottom home.
Curran had only ridden one other hill-climb in preparation, but he had been training up Rosedale Chimney for several weeks.
"I hate these races," said the new champion. "But with this one being local I thought I would give it a really good try. I only live about 30 miles away.
"At the top I had never been in a state like that before. I just had to flop on to a car.
"I had decided on a 25-tooth bottom sprocket, but 30 minutes before the start I put a 24-tooth on, and wish that I had not done so now.
"If I am still an amateur next year I will be defending this title."
Boardman had found late form to challenge Curran, following sixth place in the Grand Prix of France time trial the previous weekend, a ride he really enjoyed.
"I was on 42 x 24 (47.3 inches) the same as Paul," Boardman explained. "I could not use the block I wanted as the thread stripped so I used a spare one off a mountain bike. It did not have the sprockets I wanted as I could not change up after the steep bit at the top.
"I found the climb all right as you get time to recover. Yesterday was the first time that I had ridden the hill. When I heard Paul's halfway time I did not think that I could do it."
At the halfway point, on one of the steepest sections of l-in-3, Boardman was a full second behind Curran.
"I was a bit disappointed this season," Boardman reckoned. "I did not think that I had improved as much as I thought I should. After the world championships for the last two months I have been training harder than ever before and for the first time I am going to train through the winter, about two hours a day."
After finishing runner-up to Webster for the fourth successive time last year, Marchant was tipped to take over with the defending champion out of action with a knee injury. The South Londoner was on a 51.5-inch fixed wheel, whereas Curran changed gear four times during his ride.
"I do not think the fixed wheel was a mistake for me," Marchant insisted. "I was on 42 x 22. I was going to use a 24-tooth sprocket on the freewheel on my road bike, but then I thought the fixed wheel was best. I could get the right momentum, especially on the steep bit.
"I came up to the hill on Friday and had ridden up three times before by freewheel, but only yesterday did I decide to use a fixed."
The previous weekend Marchant had missed his two-scheduled races, the Catford CC and Bec CC hill-climbs which were cancelled after the courses were wrecked by hurricane-strength winds.
"With no racing I did not know how I was going," he said. "I have been dreading this championship. When I found out about the hill I thought, oh no, not another one where you end up in hospital. Then I heard Webster was not riding and I became keen again."
Marchant lost his championship hope in the last hall, having been only two seconds down on Curran at mid-distance. He was not alone struggling in to the finish, with Tunstall Wheeler, Steve Hulme suffering a similar fate.
Hulme was level with eventual fourth-place, Phil Sheard at half-distance, sharing 2-50, but he slumped to eventual eighth fastest with 5-57.6 after losing a massive 13 seconds on the final section.
Early leaders Dave Long and Pat Kinch were the only other riders inside six minutes, Sunday's elite class.
Kinch (University of Bristol CC) the reigning students' champion, managed to catch two riders with his effort despite his minute-man, Martin Webster being a non-starter. He was off number 70, setting a new best of three minutes to the hallway mark and an eventual 5-55.2.
It was a short-lived lead as Dave Long (Drighlington BC), starting five minutes later, was five seconds slower at mid-distance, but pulled back a massive eight seconds on Kinch to go top with 5-52.4.
Longbottom, starting number 80, was the first of the big guns, and although his ride, the first inside 5-50 seemed amazing, it was only a taster of what was to come.
While the superstars sprinted up the hill, the 1-in-3 gradient and the distance proved simply too much for some of the lesser mortals who collapsed into the arms of spectators halfway up.
Early starters had the added problem of wet roads and when their back wheels slipped as they struggled out-of-the saddle, down they fell.
About 10 riders touched the tarmac, while a further two were luckier. One rider ran out of strength and by accident found himself doing a track stand only to be pushed on his way. Another came to a rest on the thick bank of spectators and with his feet still strapped in, he was not given the chance of abandoning but was shoved back into the fray.
It was a championship and a hill to be remembered.
1. Paul Curran (Manchester Wh-Trumanns) 5 22.8
2. Chris Boardman (Manchester Wh) 5 23.0
3. SteveMarchant ('34Nomads) 5 31.2
4. P. Sheard (Bradford Wh) 5 44.0
5. P. Longbottom (ManchesterWh) 5 48.2
6. D. Long (Drighlington BC) 5 52.4
7. P. Kinch (University of Bristol CC) 5 55.2
8. S. Hulme (Tunstall Wh) 5 57.6
9. J. Atkinson (Chesterfield Cour) 6 3.2
10. J. Barnes (Gloucester City CC) 6 4.4
11. M. Crosby (Clayton Velo) 6 5.8
12. R. Langley (SolihullCC) 6 6.6
13. M. Biagden (Chesterfield Cour) 6 9.6
14. I. Dalton (Cherry Valley RT) 6 12.8
15. I. Harvey (Dinnington RC) 6 13.4
16. M. Addinall (VC York) 6 13.4
17. T. Gill (CC Bowland) 6 14.0
18. M. Poole (StourbridgeCC) 6 14.2
19. M. McGregor (VC EIan) 6 16.2
20. I. Taylor (Rhyl RC) 6 18.4
21. G. Gibson (Buxton CC) 6 20.4
22. W. Belcher (Rossendale RC) 6 21.2
23. M. Andrew (Lune RCC) 6 21.6
24. T. Donnelion (Port Sunlight Wh) 6 23.3
25. M. Stephens (Hemel Hempatead CC) 6 25.0
26. M. Foston (Hull Thursday RC) 6 25.8
27. G. Firth (Ferryhill Wh) 6 29.0
28. N. Despres (Guernsey Velo) 6 30.0
29. G. Mount (Barnesbury CC) 6 30.8
30. J. Greaves (Whitby Endeavour CC) 6 34.4
31. T. Pain (North Hampshire RC) 6 36.0
32. M. Peel (Drighlington BC) 6 39.4
33. G. Leslie (Knaresboro' CC) 6 43.4
34. R. Hughes (Archer RC) 6 43.8
35. G. Wood (Macclesfield Wh) 6 48.0
36. M. Hail (Marple Wh) 6 48.8
37. J. Waddilove (Crewe Cl) 6 51.0
38. P. Warren (Halifax RC) 6 53.6
39. I. Thorley (Featherstone RC) 6 54.2
40. R. Hatton (Gravesend CC) 6 55.0
41. A. Marshall (Matlock CC) 6 56.6
42. A. McCrossan (VC Vents) 6 58.2
43. M. Tidawell (Halifax RC) 6 58.2
44. R. Gibson (KentValley RC) 7 4.4
45. D. Manlove (Buxton CC) 7 5.2
46. S. Watson (Dukinfield CC) 7 6.0
47. S. Benton (Hinckley CRC) 7 6.6
48. R. Slee (South Bucks RC) 7 7.0
49. M. Stones (City RC) 7 7.4
50. R. Wilkinson (TS Tameside) 7 7.4
51. M. Jones (Manchester Wh) 7 7.6
52. E. Cruttenden (Matlock CC) 7 8.8
53. M. Robinson (Buxton CC) 7 9.6
54. S. Roberts (Cleveleys RC) 7 14.6
55. C. Quayle (Manx RC) 7 10.2
56. M. Hotchin (Buxton CC) 7 12.8
57. P. Greenwood (Burnley Sportiv) 7 17.0
58. I. Foston(HullThursdayRC) 7 19.6
59. T. Holdsworth (Hudderafield Star Wh) 7 21.0
60. P. Varian (Midland CAC) 7 22.6
61. S. Clarke (Bristol South CC) 7 22.14
62. P. Boyd (Clayton Velo) 7 24.8
63. R. Gould (Matlock CC) 7 27.0
64. S. Gibson (Cestria CC) 7 27.0
65. A. Ramsay (ABC Centreville) 7 29.6
66. J. Nixon (Rossendale RC) 7 30.8
67. P. Lock (Saracen RC) 7 33.6
68. C. Bevis (Cleveland Wh) 7 40.0
69. S. Ridings (Lancs RC) 7 40.6
70. R. Goodall (Cleveland Wh) 7 41.8
71. G. Pearce (Stockport Cl) 7 44.8
72. D. Salih (Harworth & Dist) 7 46.2
73. R. Norvill (Tykes CRT) 7 47.6
74. S. Wells (Lindsey RCC) 7 49.0
75. D. Rogers (Harworth & Dist) 7 53.4
76. A. Bowler (Rossendale RC) 7 53.6
77. M. Evans (Stockport Cl) 8 6.2
78. M. King (Hull Cour) 8 11.8
79. R. Murphy (Cleveland Cour) 8 18.2
80. J. DeSousa (Ross Wh) 8 37.2
81. P. Coulter (Altrincham Ravens) 8 40.4
82. J. Griffiths (Burnley Sportiv) 8 43.0
83. P. Manning (Harworth & Dist) 8 43.4
Team. - Manchester Wh-Trumanns Steel (Curran, Boardman, Longbottom) 16-34.0.
REPORT ROBERT GARBUTT
PICTURES PHIL O'CONNOR