NATIONAL Amateur Road Race Championship
HISTORY repeated itself when Rob Harris (Optimum Perfomance RT-Tritech) retained the BCF national amateur road race championship in North East Derbyshire on Sunday.
The red-haired Yorkshireman was in his element on a tough 107-mile course in the Chesterfield area which saw the other fancied riders fail one by one until he was left as the lone leader.
In a repeat of last year's race pattern he used the strength-sapping Derbyshire hills as his spring-board for success.
Harris attacked his three breakaway companions 12 miles from home and crossed the line 25 seconds clear of former junior title holder Jeremy Hunt (CC Giro), who outsprinted Mark Lovatt (Optimum Performance RT) for the silver medal.
It was a sweet victory for Harris, who has tasted both success and disappointment since winning the title over the same roads last September.
His team-mates Paul Curran, who finished fourth after mechanical trouble, and Gary Speight, who took the bunch sprint for fifth, completed an outstanding day for the Derbyshire-based Optimum squad.
About a quarter of the 96 starters who rolled out of Clay Cross on Sunday morning saw their hopes dashed within the first eight miles. A massive pile-up brought more than 20 riders crashing down.
Four were taken to hospital - Mark McKay (CC Velo), Alex Beal (CC Luton), Darren Knight (Delta RT) and Martin Pitchford (Dinnington RC) - while others had their bikes wrecked beyond repair.
There was no apparent cause. No other vehicle was involved, and the crash was put down to a touch of wheels.
Among the top names whose chances went west were Wayne Randle (Optimum Performance), Richard Prebble (Wembley RC), Mark Dawes (Irish Heritage), Matt Illingworth (North Wirral Velo) and Andy Perks (CC Giro).
The mayhem split the bunch into three groups, with Gary Speight and Jeremy Hunt among the front runners with the Delta RT duo of Glenn Holmes and Rod Ellingworth.
As the race steadily ticked off the laps of the 10-mile opening circuit the field regrouped into a single peloton again.
After a short lull in the action a flurry of activity produced a new break. Nine men raced clear with 30 miles covered. It was a move destined to have a decisive effect on the final outcome.
The new lead group included two experienced former professionals, Gary Baker (Olympia Sport) and Neil Martin (Dinnington RC), as well as the in-form Glenn Holmes, Mark Lovatt, Ian Knight (VC Bedford), Andy Collis (CC Giro), Simon Price (Wembley RC), Richard Wooles (Extreme CC) and Chris Allcock (Mansfield RC).
This was a lively and determined group. And although Price and Collis sometimes looked vulnerable, the nine gained ground rapidly to forge a maximum lead of 1-13.
The turning point came after the race switched from the Clay Cross circuit on to the longest climb of the day at Eckington. Hunt then put in an attack which ended the hopes of most of the original break after 93 miles. The acceleration left only Curran, Harris and Lovatt capable of holding their places in the front group.
Then the scene changed again. Harris and Curran went clear and hurtled down through the lanes towards Dronfield with Hunt and Lovatt in hot pursuit.
The downhill stretch saw the chasers catch the two breakaways and the four were together again as they entered Dronfield where three laps of a 4.3-mile finishing circuit awaited them.
A nasty climb just after the finish line saw Curran off his bike and in trouble. He explained later that he had been involved in the pile-up, breaking a spoke in his back wheel. When he changed on to his biggest sprocket, the chain hit the spoke and derailed. Curran gave a brave chase but was doomed to fourth place.
While Curran was struggling, Harris attacked on the climb. At first he didn't appear fully committed but every pedal thrust took him further away and soon he was disappearing over the horizon with Hunt and Lovatt too shattered to do anything about it.
That was how it ended, Harris crossing the line with arms aloft - the first amateur to defend his national title successfully since Robert Millar in 1979.
'There's nothing worse than finishing fourth,' said Curran, who in his disappointment was still happy to pay tribute to Hunt. 'He's really come on a lot since the last time I rode against him,'
The championship was another excellent promotion by North East Derbyshire District Council with the North Midlands Division of the BCF. Derbyshire Police provided a full escort and the event was supported by no fewer than 26 local sponsors.
1. Rob Harris (Optimum Performance RT--Tritech) 107 miles in 3-53-11
2. Jeremy Hunt (CC Giro) at 23sec
3. Mark Lovatt (Optimum Performance RT) at 25sec
4. P. Curran (Optimum Performance RT) at 42sec
5. G. Speight (Optimum Performance RT) at 1-16
6. P. Rogers (Wembley RC)
7. P. Esposti (Cwmcarn Paragon)
8. Hammond (Invicta RC)
9. M. Postle (Delta RT)
10. Roche (Ellan Vannin CC)
11. Hurd (CS Purbeck) all st
12. Langley (CC Luton) at 1-19
13. S. Howes (Invicta RC) st
14. S. Calland (Stretford Wheelers) at 1-24
15. T. Pinn (CC Giro)
16. S. Farrell (Tunstall Wheelers)
17. Gilkes (RT Italia)
18. P. Wilkins (Ashfield RC)
19. S. Bennett (Maltby CC)
20, B. Wilson (CS Purbeck)
21, S. Bray (Invicta RC); 22, A. Naylor (RT Italia); 23, G. Bayton (RT Italia) at 1-34; 24, T. Snape (Liverpool Century); 25, D. Wedley (Stretford Wheelers); 26, N. Martin (Dinninglon RC); 27, J. Wiggins (BCF private member); 28, M. Addinall (North East RT); 29, S. Colloby (CC Abergavenny); 30, D. Williams (RT Italia); 31, P. Wills (Festival RC); 32, M. Rogers (Team Total Fitness); 33, K. Stewart (CC Giro); 34, J. Ramsbottom (Dinnington RC); 35, P. Coggins (GS Orion); 36, M. Stephens (North Wirral Velo) at 1-54; 37, M. Charity (Dinnington RC) at 1-59; 38, M. Firth (Bonnyrigg CC) st; 39, A. Lyons (Olympia Sport) at 2-9; 40, G. Howell (Olympia Sport) at 2-34; 41,I. Knight (VC Bedford) at 2-54; 42, N. Nicholson (Middridge CRT) st; 43, D. Webb (Olympic CC) 3-29; 44, A. Howarth (SG Bollington) at 4-29.