|NATIONAL Amateur Road Race Championship|
An incident-packed finish to the national amateur road race title spiced up an otherwise uneventful race.
WHEN two hands shot up in the air at the end of the national amateur road race championship in Buxton on Sunday, one belonging to Steve Farrell (Tunstall Wheelers) and the other to Simon Bray (Invicta RC), it was not to signal a dead heat.
Farrell thought that he was celebrating a long-overdue national title win, while Bray was protesting, convinced that Farrell had robbed him of the title by dubious tactics on the uphill finish to Buxton's Market Place.
A protest by Bray saw the finishing positions being reversed, with Bray the new champion and Farrell second, with the Dinnington RC's former professional Paul Curran third.
Although the controversial finish robbed this 50th Lowther Tour of the Peak promotion of a conclusive outcome, no one could dispute that Bray deserved the final reward. He had been active for all of the day, winning four of the five primes, and finishing second on the other, and had planned his finishing strategy well, letting Farrell do all the attacking in the closing miles, then positioning himself well for the finishing sprint before Farrell started playing games.
Twice Farrell showed him the door, effectively closing it firmly on the last occasion; enough to give the race commissaires no option but to relegate him to second position.
It was Farrell who started the action after two miles and by five miles the lead was 30 seconds with Farrell joined by Steve Hulme (Manchester Wheelers), Dan Smith (Festival RC), Mark Lovatt (Congleton CC), Scott Mitchell-Harris (Penzance Wheelers) and Bray.
After some reshuffling the break was down to four men: Farrell, Smith, Lovatt and Bray, with Paul Curran bridging from bunch to break to make five in the lead.
The gap was one minute at the Peak Forest, and for most, the race was already over. However, some chases were being set up: Jeff Wright (Tyne Velo) with McCaffrey, Steve Cook (Calleva CRC) with Dave Williams (Solihull CC), and the four combined forces as the break reached 1-10 on the bunch with 11 miles done.
By Ladybower the reservoir shimmering in the sunshine - the lead was 2-30, with the first climb of the day - the Snake Pass - lying just around the corner.
Lovatt led on the climb, but Bray was first over the prime line, with Farrell and Curran third and fourth, but it was early days yet and there were some tougher climbs still to come.
With one chasing group on its way, another was set up: Neil Martin (Dinnington RC), Matthew Postle (Delta RT), Richard Moore (Hull Coureurs), Simeon Hempsall (CS Strada) the 1990 champion - and Martyn Ludlam (Leicestershire RC). Hempsall was doing the driving in the second chase, adrift by 2-10 with the bunch at 3-15.
Chunal Head went to Lovatt from Bray, Farrell and Smith, while the two chasing groups had merged, well, almost, as Ludlam was dropped, leaving five in the lead, nine chasers and the rest seemingly just out to enjoy a nice day out in the beautiful scenery of the Peak District.
This lack of effort saw the break getting further and further away with the chasers getting nowhere and the bunch down to 16mph at one time.
Near neighbours Gary Thomas (Leek CC) and Mike Harrison (Congleton CC) attempted to chase after the nine chasers, making contact shortly after the start of the second lap.
By then Bray had taken the prime at Rushup Head from Lovatt, Curran and Farrell, and then Mitchell-Harris was dropped from the now 11-man chasing group.
Time gaps revealed that the 10 chasers had 3-8 to make up on the break, who were five minutes up on the disinterested bunch.
Winnats Pass was the next big climb with the biggest crowd so far out to watch and cheer on their favourites. Over the cattle grid and Smith was dropped, then Lovatt lost contact and Curran too as Bray took the prime from Farrell.
Curran put in a short and furious chase over the top and was soon back with Bray and Farrell, only to launch an immediate attack.
It was brought back, and then Bray attacked unsuccessfully.
Meanwhile for Lovatt it had taken longer to get back, and his tremendous descending skills took him back to his former companions while Smith was to go backwards to eventually finish 14th and 8-17 down.
With aptly-named Long Hill to provide the final challenge, Farrell began a series of attacks that would have paralysed lesser riders. He attacked once but came back, then Curran attacked and Farrell went after him. Farrell went again and again, then Curran and Farrell combined forces. Bray wasn't having any of that and he crossed to them, but the savageness of the constant attacking saw Lovatt in trouble again.
Bray took the final prime from Farrell, and the race was on to the finish in Buxton.
On the long descent into Buxton Lovatt caught the leaders, only to lose ground again as they commenced the final climb to the finish.
Curran couldn't match the finish speed of Farrell and Bray, and then the trouble began.
'I had that race,' said Bray, 'then I had to brake twice. He pushed me into the barrier.'
Farrell, slumped over the bars, slumped even lower when chief commisssaire Brian Cookson told him of the decision to relegate him to second place.
He was downcast at the prize presentation, unable to look as the national champion's jersey went on Bray's shoulders, but when it came to his turn to receive the silver medal he put a brave face on it and shook Bray's hand.
Simon Bray: 'I thought I had a good chance whether Boardman, Curran or Farrell were riding. I always wanted to win the Tour of the Peak and I have killed two birds with one stone: winning the national championship and the Tour of the Peak. My other two aims are the Milk Race and the Commonwealth Games road race, but with work it may not be possible.
'On Long Hill Farrell was attacking all the time and it was just me and Paul who were pulling him back.'
Steve Farrell: 'I just got my head down. I wasn't looking. I just wanted to win the national championship.
'When Paul and Mark caught me at Chapel-en-le-Frith I got cramp in both legs. I attacked about 50 times as I didn't want Mark (his training partner) to win! It was a good group, everyone was working.'
Paul Curran: 'My legs just locked up on the final hill. I chased Farrell, he chased me, and Simon Bray rode well, he was in all the moves.
Mark Lovatt: 'I just got back on, and that were it.'
Chief Commissaire Brian Cookson: 'Farrell was relegated to second place for dangerous riding in the last 200 metres. On the first occasion Bray tried to get past and Farrell moved to the centre of the road. Bray was on his left, then Farrell moved a good two metres sideways.
'Once Bray got his momentum he tried to get past again on the left with 150 metres to go. Farrell closed the door completely by moving three metres and there was no room between him and the barrier.
'In view of that the commissaires had no option but to reverse the result. It was seen by other commissaires positioned in the last 200 metres.
'It was a decision that I didn't like to make.'
1. Simon Bray (Invicta RC-Uvex) 90m in 3-50-1
2. Steve Farrell (Tunatall Wh)
3. Paul Curran (Dinnington RC) both st
4. M. Lovatt (Congleton CC) at l7sec
5. S. Hempsall (GS Strada) at 3-42
6. Young (Glenmarnock CC) at 3-47
7. Thomas (Leek CC) at 3-55
8. L. Davis (Bournemouth Arrow)
9. M. Harrison (Congleton CC) both st;
10. T. Hall (Ace RT) at 4-2
11. W. Randle (Dinnington RC) at 4-52
12. J. Wright (Tyne Velo) at 7-7
13. Postle (Delta RT) st
14. D. Smith (Festival RC) at 8-17
15. J. Tanner (Dinnington RC)
16. N. Martin (Dinnington RC)
17. G. Speight (Stars & Stripes)
18. P. Rogers (VC St Raphael) all st
19. J. Roberts (Leicestershire RC) at 8-24
20. G. Foord (Wembley RC) at 9-5
21, S. Cook (Calleva CRC); 22, R. Thompson (GS Metro); 23, R. Riddle (Moray Firth RT); 24, J. White (Olympia Sport); 25, M. Daly (Darttord Wh); 26, A. Hardy (N Bucks RC); 27, A. Roche (Liverpool Mercury); 28, P. Longbottom (GS Strada); 29, R. Binks (Huddersfield RC); 30, D. Williams (Solihull CC); 31, K. Riddle (Moray Firth RT); 32, P. Foley (Heron RC); 33, J. Harrison (Invicta RC); 34, P. Goodwin (lrish Heritage); 35, M. Watch (Team Zoyland); 36, R. Parker (E Grinstead CC); 37, S. Howes (Aylesbury CC); 38, B. Scott (Glasgow Wh); 39, R. Smart (VC Nottingham); 40, C. King (Bath University); 41, S. Calland (Stars & Stripes), all st; 42, R. Moore Hull Coureurs) at 10-48; 43, J. Barnes (Gloucester City CC) at 11-23; 44, S. Gowar (S Western RC) at 11-51; 45, J. Ramsbottom (Dinnington RC) at 11-55; 46, A. Cooke (VC Chesterfield) at 12-33; 47, D. Wedley (Deeside Olympic) at 13-44; 48, R. Langley (Solihull CC) at 20-16; 49, D. Rand (CS Purbeck); 50, M. Taylor (Cleveleys RC); 51, C. Ailcock (Delta RC); 52, P. Costa (Cumbernauld CC); 53, A. Collis (Royal Sutton CC); 54, G. Holmes (Rennrad); 55, C. Roshier (Hounslow & Dist), all st; 56, N. Nicholson (Richmond & Darlington CC) at 23-42.