|Mike Binks Memorial Road Race|
FORMER double Commonwealth gold medallist Paul Curran signalled his return to top form with a decisive win on home ground in the Mike Binks Memorial road race on Sunday.
Curran, now riding in Dinnington RC-Ideal colours, has been out of action for three months following a bout of pneumonia, but he showed his old flair when he escaped six miles from the finish and powered his way to a 45 second solo victory in the Cleveland Wheelers event, held over a 74-mile course based on Newby, North Yorkshire.
He left last year's winner Mike Milen (Northern Velo) to salvage the sprint for second place from Richard Binks (Huddersfield RC) and Andy Cooper (Wakefield CC), with Curran's club-mate and Commonwealth team time trial bronze medallist Wayne Randle chasing alone to take fifth place, a further nine seconds back.
Ian Murray (Stockton Wheelers), a past winner of the Binks Memorial, also came in alone, with Pete Coggins (Selby CC) taking seventh place from the only other four finishers in the tough six-lapper.
The race was run-off at an average of 26mph, and Curran dipped his toe in the water when he attacked after one-and-a half miles.
It got him nowhere, but it set the pace as Randle, Milen and new Cleveland Division champion Nigel Nicholson (Richmond and Darlington CC) all attempted to split the field.
By the end of the first lap the field had effectively been reduced to 12 riders, the main instigators of the split being Randle, Curran and Milen, and the bunch behind them gradually became whittled down.
With two laps, or 25 miles, remaining, Curran, Milen, Binks and Cooper pulled away from the rest, and with six miles to go Curran escaped by himself, turning in a phenomenal time trial performance to leave a hard chasing trio well behind.
Curran had won a local handicap road race at Bishopton the previous Tuesday but, as he himself described it, this was his first 'proper' win of the season after a frustrating three months.
'From the beginning of March I got just one week in, and three days after my first race of the season I came down with pneumonia,' said the four-times Star Trophy winner and ex-professional.
This was the first year since 1984 that Curran, a former stage winner, has not ridden the Milk Race, and he was seen among the roadside spectators when the round-Britain event passed through his region last week.
'I managed to get out to see them on three separate days during training rides,' he added.
'It was a bit frustrating not being in the action, but there was no way I was fit enough to get round that course.
'I'm training as much as my fitness will allow me to, but I'm still not 100 per cent.
'When you're not so fit, you have to ride with your head rather than your body!'
Curran clearly has the bit between his teeth, and will be a rider to watch in what remains of the season's big events. He misses the Manx International - a race which gave him one of the first big wins of his illustrious career - but will be in action two days later in the Shell Grand Prix at Buxton.
1. Paul Curran (Dinnington RC-Ideal) 74m in 2.49-54
2. M. Milen (Northern Velo) at 45sec
3. R. Binks (Huddersfield RC)
4. A. Cooper (Wakefield CC) all st
5. W. Randle (Dinnington RC) at 54sec
6. I. Murray (Stockport Wh) at 1-21
7. P. Coggins (Selby CC) at 2-04
8. A. Bennett (Paragon RT)
9. C. Ellis (Hull Coueurs)
10. J. Watchman (ABC Centreville) all st.