TOUR OF THE COTSWOLDS
Paul Curran - the Commonwealth Games and national road race champion - added the City of Gloucester Tour of the Cotswolds to his Star Trophy collection of wins this year on Sunday, just scraping home by 10 seconds after being in a 39-mile lone break for the latter part of the race.
Curran had struck for home on the Brockhampton prime at 81 miles, despite advice from his Manchester Wheelers-Trumanns Steel team-mate Pete Longbottom, who knows something about the course having ridden the race nine times and won it once in 1983.
"He said it was too early to go and there were still two primes to come," said Curran. "I attacked. I felt good and I went for it. With 15 miles to go I started to drain and on the last two laps I had to put my head down a bit."
Of all the races in Star Trophy series, the Tour of the Cotswolds must rate as one of the most scenic, but the delights of this particular part of the world were lost on most of the 61 starters. The action began immediately after the five-mile neutralisation period at the start of the first climb for prime points on the Fiddler's Elbow, worth £60 thanks to Hewden-Stuart Crane-Hire.
First to the top was Karl Smith (Paragon RT), followed by Steve Farrell (GS Strada) and Steven Cook (VC Etoile) with the bunch splitting.
The effect of the climb, the rain beginning to pour, and the twists and turns through Cranham Woods sent 12 riders away: last year's winner Roger Dunne (Harp RC), Phil Cassidy (Ireland), Curran, Longbottom, Wayne Randle (Chesterfield Coureurs), Mike Twelves (Tunstall Wheelers), Colin Roshier (Hounslow and District), Nick Noble (Team Zoyland), Peter Maxwell (Liverpool Mercury), David Lund (Middridge RT), Ian Reeds (Welland Valley) and Steve Marchant ('34 Nomads).
With warnings being issued to "watch for dangerous bends" and "look out for the horse" the race descended Daneway with the lead at one minute and with 17 miles done.
The second prime at Sapperton was won by Roshier from Reeds and Dunne, and by Chapmans Cross the lead was up to 2-3.
The break said goodbye to Marchant at this point as the RTTC hill-climb silver-medallist punctured and slid off the back by the bunch at Avening after Dunne had taken the third prime of the day.
The lead fluctuated from 1-50 at Tetbury to 2-20, then 2-15 on the Cirencester by-pass to 2-45 at Barnsley (42.4m).
Roshier busied himself again on the Bibury prime but was beaten by Lund with Reeds third.
Everyone was working well in the break except Cassidy who hovered at the back calling frequently for drinks. Several dropped back to talk to him - including Curran - but the Dubliner declined the invitation to view the scenery from the front.
The lead went from 2-55 to 3-2 at Northleach, with the Manor Farm prime won by Randle from Roshier and Reeds, and by Lower Swell, the lead was down to 2-30.
Maxwell punctured from the break as the race went downhill, and he was to be absorbed by the bunch shortly afterwards.
Randle got the benefit of a £20 prime at Corndean Lane, beating Roshier and Longbottom. There was a good crowd on this hill who saw the bunch come through 1-54 later.
Reeds punctured, then rejoined the break at the foot of the Brockhampton prime, but was dropped as Curran raced to the top to take the prime from Roshier and Randle, then kept going to start a memorable lone break.
He soon opened up a 20-second gap on his old companions, and was 45 seconds clear at 87.8 miles on the second-last prime at Kildenny, where Roshier and Randle finished second and third.
Several times Roshier tried to break clear from the chasing group but each time Longbottom pulled back. At the Air Balloon roundabout Curran was on full tanks of gas, 1-30 clear of the original break and seemingly heading for a classic win.
Curran in full flight is an amazing sight, and this seemingly slight figure oozed strength and speed while claiming the final prime at Birdlip.
With 14 miles to go he had a 1-20 advantage as a chase had been set up by Cassidy, Farrell and Roy Chamberlain (Sapphire RC) after the chasing group and bunch had finally come together.
There was news of a pile-up on the finishing circuit with Andrew Perks (Manchester Wheelers) breaking his arm and Innes Taylor (Rhyl RC) breaking his left-hand crank.
News of the three chasers had been sketchy and shortly after Curran had been told he was 1-40 in the lead, it was announced that it was in fact, only 20 seconds. He fought back magnificently to hold on for his first Tour of the Cotswolds win, and good encouragement for his world championship bid in Austria in September.
On this form Curran is unbeatable in this country, and hopefully he will get a medal in Austria, but he is too good to stay amateur in this country. He owes it to himself to pursue a professional career and who knows just what he can do in the pro ranks. Just how good is he? asked someone afterwards. On this evidence, the very best.
1. PAUL CURRAN (Manchester Wh-Trumanns Steel) 119.5m
2. P. Cassidy (Ireland)
3. S. Farrell (GS Strada)
4. A. Chapman (Featherstone PC)
5. D. Spencer (Paragon RT)
6. R. Chamberlain (Sapphire PC)
7. N. McWilliams (Ireland)
8. D. Brooker (VC Etoile)
9. P. Longbottom (Manchester Wh)
10. G. Baker (Anglia Sport).
REPORT: DENNIS DONOVAN PICTURES: RON GOOD