MANX INTERNATIONAL ROAD RACE
Paul Curran added the Manx International to his Commonwealth and British road race titles in a thrilling finale to Manx Week on Friday.
The race ran true to form with the 1985 winner Curran (Great Britain) outsprinting Ben Luckwell (VC St Raphael) after three laps of the TT course.
Third was Scotland's bright prospect Brian Smith, who finished eight seconds behind Curran and Luckwell, and Mark Gornall (Manchester Wheelers) was fourth at 2-31.
It was Britain's day with fifth-placed Jean-Claude Annaert of France the only overseas rider to get into the first 10 places.
Both Curran and Luckwell missed the early break that split the field. But first Luckwell and then Curran bridged the two-minute gap to reach the 20 or so men at the head of the field.
Curran had left it late, only 29 of the 113 1/4 miles remained as he took a breather on the easiest part of the circuit before blowing the field apart on the final, decisive, climb of Snaefell.
Only Smith and Luckwell could stay with Curran as the leaders battled into a headwind on the exposed slopes of the mountain.
Curran tested the other two with an attack midway up the seven-mile climb. They stuck with him and the trio shared the pace until Luckwell launched a do-or-die attack last climb of the race, with just over a mile to go.
Curran quickly sensed the danger and sprinted across the gap onto Luckwell's wheel. The sudden acceleration proved too much for Smith who was tailed off as Curran led out of Governers Bridge with the checkered flag visible ahead.
Curran led all the way up the finishing straight and Luckwell could offer no resistance as the Great Britain rider won by a length.
It was Curran's first long-distance event since stomach trouble put him out of the Milk Race. Had there been any after effects? "My legs went a bit last time up the mountain, I just need to get in some long runs," he said, taking a drink after a long day in the sun.
How did he miss the early split in the field? "I can never get into early breaks, the bunch won't let me," said Curran whose every move is marked.
Then came the chase. "Only a couple of us were working," said Curran of his spectacular charge through the field with John Evans (Coldra RC) to join the leaders on the final lap.
Runner-up Luckwell was quietly pleased to maintain his lead in the Star Trophy competition on his first visit to the Island.
"I'm no climber, how can I be at 12 1/2 stone," he said. "I couldn't sprint at the end, I think the mountain deadened my legs, and then the attack just before the end finished me off."
Smith was the only one of the first three to be at the head of affairs throughout, from the first-lap split to the final showdown on the mountain. He has had a busy time since the Milk Race, riding two 100-mile events for his French club. But now he is home for a time to concentrate on Olympic qualifying events.
Scotland had a good race, with Finlay Gentleman, 10th, and David Gibson, 17th, backing Smith.
Fourth-placed Gornall had a hectic race. Up with the leaders, he was forced to stop to adjust his rear wheel just as the pressure was going on before the second climb of the mountain. He fought back and third time up the mountain he was last man to be dropped by Curran's group.
But he did not lose too much ground as he climbed at his own pace and finished 2-31 down, clinching the climbers' prize.
National Coach Doug Dailey was happy with the outcome and sees Curran and Luckwell as automatic choices for Olympic selection. "I hope the rest pick themselves," he said. "The events we will be looking at will be the Vaux, the Bristol GP and the National road race, plus one more team time trial.
"Curran came through today after giving us a fright and Luckwell climbed well as did Gornall. It was interesting to see how the lads we've been working on for the team time trial came through, Spencer, Gornall, Luckwell and Noble.
"Travis was very game and Ford did well, they'll both be riding with the team in Switzerland at the end of the month."
3 miles: Rob Rasenberg (Australia) attacks. Quickly joined by John Ward and Wayne Randle (Chesterfield Coureurs), Raymond Vidal and Miguel Serem-Amen (Majorca), Philippe Magmien (France), Andrew Espley (RAF), Steve Wardle (Liverpool Mercury), Mark Gornall (Manchester Wheelers), Roger Hobbs (Wales), Nigel Simpson (Wembley RC), Darren Worsdale (Stoke AC), David Hassan (Scotland), Mike Twelves (Stoke AC), Pete Maxwell (GB Youth), Nick Noble (VC St Raphael), Steve Porter (Manx RC), Nick Cox (Seacroft Wheelers).
24 miles (Ramsey): More riders -Norman Hughes and Jason Ford (Wales), Chris Marshall (VC Bradford), Gary Johnstone (Twickenham CC). Lee Travis (Stone Wheelers), Paul Holdsworth (Feltham RC), Jean-Claude Annaert and Bernard Jousselin (France), Brian Smith (Scotland), Andy Chapman (Featherstone RC) join leaders. Bunch at 1-30.
30 miles (Snaefell): Randle takes prime from Gornall and Annaert, Twelves fighting to get back after service.
37 miles: Steven Shaw (Brook CC), Porter and Twelves get up to leaders after 55mph descent. Then Shaw abandons at Grandstand.
65 miles (second climb of mountain): Hughes and Magmien lead, Hughes dropped early on climb, Magmien is lone leader.
68 miles (Bungalow prime): Now five men lead as Magmien is joined by Annaert, Gomall, Twelves and Noble.
71 miles: Dave Spencer (Paragon RT) and Ben Luckwell (VC St Raphael) join leaders.
74 miles (Grandstand second time): General regrouping on descent leaves 14 riders in leading group but Paul Curran (GB) and John Evans (Coldra RC) moving up fast, although still 90 seconds down on leaders.
76 miles: David Hassan (Scotland), Jason Ford (Wales), Philippe Peugnet (France) catch leaders.
82 miles: Curran and Evans catch leaders.
85 miles: Peunet takes Creg Willys prime from Smith, then touches wheel and crashes out of race with deeply cut arm.
87 miles: Hassan out of race, sick at roadside.
98 miles (Ramsey): Travis attacks with Bishop and Bernie Burns (Paragon RT).
100 miles (third time up climb): Burns drops back with cramp. Gornall leads from Curran, Smith, Luckwell.
102 miles: Gornall slips back. Curran attacks, Smith and Luckwell respond. 112 miles: Luckwell attacks, Smith dropped.
113 1/4 miles: Curran wins by one length from Luckwell.
1. PAUL CURRAN (Great Britain)
113 ¼m in 4-47-28
2. B. Luckwell (VC St Raphael) st
3. B. Smith (Scotland) at 8sec
4. M. Gornall (Mancheater Wh) at 2-31
5. J-C Annaert (France) at 2-46
6. N. Noble (VC St Raphael) at 3-30
7. D. Spencer (Paragon RT) at 3-33
8. L. Travis (Stone Wh) at 3-41
9. W. Randle (Chesterfield Cour) at 4-28
10. F. Gentleman (Scotland) at 5-18
11. B. Burns (Paragon RT) st
12. B. Jousselin (France) at 5-31
13. J. Evans (Coldra RC) st
14. P. Longbottom (Manchester Wh) at 5-32
15. P. Bateman (VC Bradford)
16. N. Bishop (GB) both st
17. D. Gibson (Scotland) at 5-37
18. P. Maxwell (GB Youth) at 6-32
19. C. Young (GB) st
20. M. Bazzano (Australia) at 8-5
21. D. Cook (GB Youth) st
22. J. Charlesworth (S. Yorks RC) at 8-7
23. J. Ward (Chesterfield Cour) st
24. J. Ford (Wales) at 8-11
25. P. Holdsworth (Feltham RC) at 8-15
26. G. Firth (Ferryhill Wh) at 11-5
27. P. Sheard (Bradford Wh) at 11-58
28. B. Clarke (Surrey RCC)
29. P. Magmlen (France)
30. N. Simpson (Wembley RC) all st.