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Skelton Bakery Bread Race

Curran on top in the Yorkshire Wolds

WINNING for a second consecutive year, former Commonwealth champion Paul Curran (Optimum Performance RT) left his rivals to pick up the crumbs in the Skelton Bakery Bread Race over 150 miles of tough Yorkshire Wolds roads.

Curran achieved his latest victory despite failing to take a stage, second place to Steve Farrell (Tunstall Wheelers) in Sunday's 83-mile third and final leg being good enough to take over the jersey from his team-mate and overnight leader Rob Harris.

Stage 1 TT

National champion Harris, winner of the Hull Thursday RC race in 1992, staked his claim for a share of the £1,200 prize list by convincingly winning the opening 1.5-mile time trial based on the picture postcard village of Bishop Burton.

The York rider described his effort: 'I put it in a big gear and gave it everything.'

And 'everything' was enough to give him a time of 3-44.9 for a winning margin of nine seconds over Wayne Randle (Optimum Performance), with Julian Ramsbottom (Dinnington RC) a further one-second back.

Eleven riders from the 80-strong field managed to beat four minutes on the U-shaped course.

1. Rob Harris (Optimum Performance RT) 3 44.9
2. W. Randle (Optimum Performance) 3 53.7
3. J. Ramsbottom (Dinnington RC) 3 54.1
4. S. Tyson (North East RT) 3 54.8
5. K. Dawson (Optimum Performance) 3 55.1
6. P. Curran (Optimum Performance) 3 55.8

Stage 2

Saturday afternoon traffic control was stretched to its limit in Beverley when the 64-mile second stage of the Skelton race got under way from the town's shopping centre.

The weekly market and Beverley Races, together with the Skelton riders and convoy, gave Humberside Police something of a logistics problem. This they adequately solved by stopping all traffic entering the town from the north until the bike riders were on their way.

Warm, windless conditions over a comparatively flat course meant high speed racing with no decisive breaks possible. Two mid-race sprints helped to keep the pace hot, the first at Etton going to Shaun Tyson (North East RT), the second at Huggate falling to Gary Speight (Optimum Performance).

The unusual sight, in British racing, of 75 riders frantically fighting out the final sprint made a spectacular picture in Beverley's Woodhall Way. Bursting from this bunch was local rider Paul Peacock (Cottingham Coureurs) who had a length in hand over runner-up Mike Milen (Northern Velo), with Randle third.

'I got on Julian Ramsbottom's wheel, he seemed to go a bit too early,' explained Peacock. 'Then I just came round him,' was how he described the final yards of his best ever performance.

His success raised him from 20th to sixth on general classification, where Harris continued to hold a narrow lead from Randle, Ramsbottom, Tyson and BBAR Kevin Dawson (Optimum Performance RT).

1. Paul Peacock (Cottingham Coureurs-DP Engineering) 64m in 2-08-52
2. M. Milen (Northern Velo)
3. W. Randle
4. J. Lowes (BCF Lincolnshire)
5. J. Charlesworth (Delta RT)
6. J. Ramsbottom all st.

Stage 3

While breakaway attempts had come to nothing on stage two, they reaped success for ambitious riders on stage three. The thought of five tough Wolds climbs did not deter the ambitious from early action, with 13 riders going clear before 10 miles were covered.

A further split developed when 17 others took up the chase.

Surprisingly missing from both these groups were overnight leaders Harris, Randle and Ramsbottom.

At 26 miles the two leading groups merged, by which time the rest were more than four minutes in arrears. Curran and Farrell, together with Frank Holmes (Chesterfield Coureurs) made the vital move at Bainton, after 29 miles, but at the first Maxim prime, Life Hill, Holmes was dropped.

Longbottom and Speight had by now escaped the rest of the chasers and set off in pursuit of the leading duo through the steep-sided Thixendale valley and the third prime of Uncleby Wold. Here Curran made it a hat trick of prime wins.

The two pairs became a quartet before the Milk Race category one climb of Garrowby Hill, only to become two pairs again as Curran led Farrell over the top of this, the highest point of the Yorkshire Wolds.

A long descent to Pocklington enabled the foursome to come together again for the final 20 miles to the finish.

Only 35 seconds behind, however, were six chasers - Dawson, Holmes, Tyson, Neil Martin (Dinnington RC), Mark Dawes (Beeston RC) and John Charlesworth (Delta RT).

The final prime near Warter went to Speight from Curran as the four battled to stay clear of the chasing six.

Two miles out from the finish Farrell made his final move. Only Curran could stay with him, but he could not match the Tunstall rider's final sprint for the stage win. Speight led in Longbottom to take third.

Yellow jersey Harris came in almost four minutes later, dropping to 20th overall and admitting to tiredness after his ride in the week-long Circuit des Mines in France.

Winner Curran described the pattern of his race. 'Nothing much happened on the first day, so I thought we'd better get stuck in today.

'It was a bit like last year, really. I gave it some stick up the hills and got away with Steve - we were both working hard. Then Pete and Gary caught us on a descent strangely enough.

'The four of us worked really well. We heard there was a group following behind, catching us a little bit. We found out Shaun Tyson was in there with Neil Martin and Kevin Dawson, so we put the pressure on a bit more.'

Steve Farrell added: 'We got away at Bainton, and could see somebody behind so we just kept pressing on.

1. Steve Farrell (Tunstall Wh) 83m in 3-04-11
2. P. Curran st
3. G. Speight (Optimum Performance) at 8sec
4. P. Longbottom (North Wirral Velo) st
5. K. Dawson at 33sec
6. F. Holmes (Chesterfield Coureurs) st.

Final overall

1. Paul Curran 150m in 5-16-44
2. S. Farrell at 15sec
3. P. Longbottom at 25sec
4. G. Speight at 33sec
5. S. Tyson at 47sec
6. K. Dawson at 48sec
7. N. Martin at 58sec
8. J. Charlesworth at 1-01
9. M. Dawes (Beeston RC) at 1-03
10. F. Holmes at 1-13.

Maxim King of the Hills

1. Paul Curran 36 pt
eq 2, S. Farrell and G. Speight 24.