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Curran to join the cash ranks

Paul Curran, Britain's top amateur rider, is turning professional. The Commonwealth Games double gold-medal winner is due to sign with a British team for the 1989 season.

Curran, who was first offered a place in a professional team in 1985 and turned it down, has decided to take the plunge and join his former Manchester Wheelers clubmates, Deno Davie and Darryl Webster, in the cash ranks.

"I shall be 28-years-old in January, so I thought it was the right time to make my mind up about becoming a professional." Curran said. "I have ridden the same races for the last four years as an amateur so I was looking for a change when I was offered a place with the best team in this country," he added.

"Which team is that?" I cannot say at the moment." Curran said. Until contracts are signed, Curran and the team concerned are keeping quiet until they make an official announcement. Rumours from within the professional world indicate that Percy Bilton are front runners for Curran's services but team manager John Herety said. "We do not comment on rumours."

The 27-year old Cleveland rider has been taken on for his stage-race and road race potential. "I do not like criterium racing very much, although as a professional I will ride what I am told to." Curran said.

Over the last four years, Curran has dominated amateur road racing at home, winning the Star Trophy series, based on selected top road races, every year since 1985. In that time, he also won the 1986 Commonwealth Games road race and was in the gold medal winning team time trial squad as well. Curran is the last member of that team to turn professional. The rest - Keith Reynolds, Alan Gornall and Deno Davie - have all changed their status.

Other successes at home include two wins in the Girvan Three-day stage race in 1984 and 1985, the Manx International in 1985 and 1988 and the national road championship in 1987.

Curran has also earned himself a good reputation abroad. In 1985 he was second in the French Circuit des Mines stage race, winner of the Tour of Normandy and the Grafton to Inverell road race in New Zealand. He has also won races in Japan.

Curran came into road racing late in his career. Until 1984 his branch of the sport was track racing with road racing taking second place. In 1981 he was national madison champion, with Stuart Morris. He kept the title for the next three years as well with Hugh Cameron. He was points champion in 1982, 1984 and 1985 and he also helped the Manchester Wheelers win the team pursuit championship several times.

"I hope I will be able to ride the national track championships next year as a professional." Curran said. This season, Curran's fourth consecutive Star Trophy was won with successes in races like the Lincoln Grand Prix, the Vaux Grand Prix, Grand Prix of Essex and Tour of the Peak. He suffered a bad crash while out training before the national road race championship and was left needing 64 stitches in his face after crashing through a car windscreen.

He quickly recovered and went to the Olympics in Seoul where, he was in contention for a medal until he broke a spoke going into the last lap when with the leaders. Curran is philosophical about his misfortune. "These things happen." he said.

Curran finished the season taking third place in the RTTC national hill-climb championship, a title he won in 1987. "Plenty of foreign riders turn professional at the end of Olympic year so it seemed a good time for me to do it as well." Curran said.

At the moment, Curran is taking a well-deserved holiday. "I have had a bad chest since the hill-climb so I could do with some sunshine."

When he returns home he will carry on training as he always has done. "I shall go out on my bike for an hour every day, no weight training, running or anything else like that. All my preparation is done on my bike. The only change to my usual routine is that I should be training in Majorca for a couple of weeks in February. When I return I would like to ride some of the time trials that are open to professionals, the North Road Hardriders for example." Curran said.

"I am looking forward to the new challenge of racing as a professional and will ride to the best of my ability for my sponsors."

Curran's departure from the amateur ranks opens the way for a new name to come to the top of the Star Trophy at least, but before the new season gets underway it is likely that at least two other leading amateurs will follow Curran into professional racing.