|SOLIHULL CLASSIC ROAD RACE|
Few begrudged Paul Curran his victory in Sunday's Solihull Classic road race, as the Dinnington RC rider has battled with illness for most of the year, and few begrudged Mark McKay (CC Luton), his second place to Curran, in this final Star Trophy counter which clinched the season-long competition for him.
McKay had been flown back from the Tour de l'Avenir in France to ride, still nursing an injured wrist from a crash with four days to go, leaving his nearest challenger for the trophy John Charlesworth - still in France.
Curran's victory was of his cool, calculating best, jumping away from a 23-man break with two miles to go of the 106-mile race, while McKay missed the break, worked hard to get to it then hammered off on his own, not aware that Curran had already broken clear, and headed for the finishing line.
There were several notable non-starters, the new national champion Simon Bray being one, out with a cold contracted the Monday after he had won the national title, and 85 riders lined up for what was to be a very fast race indeed.
Curran launched the first attack in the first few metres and that was to be the signal for a day of non-stop aggressive racing with no breaks getting more than a few metres before being hauled back.
A small break got away on the prime hill at Knowle, but it was stopped almost immediately, not by the bunch, but by chief commissaire Colin Clews who delivered a lengthy lecture to all the riders on their road behaviour in persistently crossing the white line.
This done, the race resumed with Fred Bamforth (Irish Heritage CC) having sneaked off early with the lead car to gain a small lead. His ungentlemanly behaviour didn't matter in the end as the bunch were back to their frantic pace and he was swept up and shown his rightful place in the race convoy.
The next time round a break did get away: Scott Mitchell-Harris (Penzance Wheelers), Aaron McCaffrey (Invicta RC), Lee Davis (Bournemouth Arrow), Richard Prebble (Wembley RC) and Jason Roberts (Leicestershire RC), but as soon as their numbers were being written down they had been absorbed like so many other tentative breaks.
On this relatively flat circuit there were few places that breaks could get away, and with the bunch doing 38mph at one time on the by-pass, they would have needed a high-powered motorbike to gain their freedom.
It was with two laps left of the big 13-mile circuit that a dozen riders finally made it: Neil Martin and Wayne Randle (Dinnington RC), Andy Hurford (Ashfield RC), Jason Roberts, Lee Davis, Peter Longbottom (GS Strada), Chris King (Bath University), Matthew Rogers (Bristol RC), Richard Wooles (CC Abergavenny), Mike Milen (Northern Velo), Tony McKenna (Middridge CRT) and Simon Price (Leicestershire RC).
With Longbottom up there, this had to be the break, as this most experienced of internationals rarely misses the vital break in any race.
On the last lap of the big circuit an 11-man chase was set up: Curran, McCaffrey, Dominic Sweeney (Invicta RC), Paul Panton and Paul Rogers (VC St Raphael), Matthew Postle (Delta RT), Dave Williams (Solihull CC), Patrick Goodwin (Irish Heritage CC), Dave Cuming (Macclesfield Wheelers), Andrew Hardy (North Bucks RC), and Russell Thompson (CS Metro).
Then with four laps to do of the small three-mile circuit around Solihull the two groups merged, 23 strong, and all looking for victory. McKay wasn't among them, he was still in the bunch, while Curran was thinking of ways of giving the break the slip.
Davis and McKenna tried to get away with three miles to go, and as they were caught, Curran was away and heading for his best win all season.
McKay bridged the gap to the break, then attacked and headed for Solihull's High Street for the win that would give him the Star Trophy. It was a tremendous ride, but to his great surprise Curran had already arrived there first, and he was content with second place knowing that a season's ambition had finally been realised.
Glenn Holmes (Rennrad) took the sprint for third place and the shattered field headed for the changing rooms and the welcome showers knowing they had been in a very fast race indeed.
Paul Curran: 'People kept having little goes, but then I caught them at the right time and I went. Neil (Martin) had been in the earlier breaks, but the race was so fast that it was hard to get away.
'I wanted to get fit for the end of the season, but I don't know about the hill-climb season, my lungs are not in order for that.'
Mark McKay: 'This is my best season in eight years. I have had 10 wins this year and two seconds. My non-selection for the Milk Race is now in the past, and I look forward to next year.
'This was the first time that I had used the 12 sprocket on British roads, although I was introduced to it on the Tour de l'Avenir. It was probably the wrong gear to use, but you put your gear lever forward, then click, and you are in the 12.'
Pete Longbottom: 'The speed was so fast that it was possible to ride round in the bunch and never get to see the front.
1. Paul Curran (Dinnington RC-ldeal Travel) 106m in
2. M. Mckay (CC Luton) at l5sec
3. G. Holmes (Rennrad)
4. J. Tanner (Dinnington RC)
5. S. Calland (Stars & Stripes)
6. M. Illingworth (GS Strada)
7. S. Price (Leicestershire RC)
8. W. Randle (Dinnington RC)
9. P. Rogers (VO St Raphael)
10. R. Wooles (CC Abergavenny)
11. P. Longbottom (GS Strada)
12. Harrison (Invicta RC)
13. R. Parkins (Rennrad)
14. L. Davis (Bournemouth Arrow)
15. S. Blunt (Wembley RC)
16. J. Wright (Tyne Velo)
17. J. Roberts (Leicestershire RC)
18. Hurtord (Ashfield RC)
19. D. Cuming (Macclestield Wh)
20. King (Bath University) all st.
Star Trophy final overall.- Mark McKay (CC Luton-Emmelle) 50pt; 2, J. Tanner (Dinnington RC) 38; 3, J. Charlesworth (Ace RT) 32; 4, M. Lovatt (Congleton CC) 31; 5, A. Hardy (N Bucks RC) 24; 6, P. Longbottom (GS Strada) 19; 7, N. Dunn (Middridge CRT) 17; eq8, W. Randle (Dinnington RC), G. Holmes (Rennrad) 16, eq 10, G. Butler (Norwood Paragon), C. Roshier (Hounslow & Dist), A. Perks (Royal Sutton CC), S. Calland (Stars & Stripes), P. Curran (Dinnington RC) 15.