|NATIONAL Professional Criterium Championship|
PAUL CURRAN (Percy Bilton) was back to his dominant best on Sunday coming home clear of the field to win the McEwans LA national professional criterium championship in Cardiff City Centre on Sunday.
Curran had been constantly in the action on a day of blistering heat and scorching pace. The winning move came with just four of the 45 two-kilometre laps to go, the winner going away with Dave Rayner (Raleigh) and Tim Gould (Cycles Peugeot) and then seeing off this pair after two more circuits. The bunch swallowed them up in turn but Curran was too strong and simply untouchable. 'I knew I had to go then,' he said. 'It was a great circuit, if they were all like this I would like to ride a crit every week.'
From the start it was clear that the whole Bilton squad meant serious business with Curran first of their number to show. A tumble on lap two put unfortunately Kevin Byers (Alpha Print) on the way to hospital, though nothing more serious than a hand injury was diagnosed.
Colin Sturgess (ADR) announced his presence at the front in these early laps, fellow exile Darryl Webster (Teka) being noticed at the tailend.
Rayner was also putting himself about in a bunch whose unrelenting speed was drawing astonished comments from non-cyclists around the circuit. For the other teams, Andy Johnson (Airmarshall) took the first prime on lap 15, Bernie Bums and Phil Bayton (Ever Ready Gold Seal) chased down a number of escapes protecting Tony Doyle's interest, but the understrength PMS-Falcon team were fighting a losing battle as were the Alpha Print squad.
Curran and team-mate Steve Joughin began to take it in tums to go away from the front. Curran with Sturgess and Rayner in one very threatening move and Joughin with alternately Russell Williams (Ever Ready Gold Seal) and Chris Walker (Raleigh-Banana). They then went together after one and a half hours racing and stayed away for two laps with Jon Clay (Raleigh-Banana) and Steve Jones (PMS-Falcon). Clay took a £100 lap prize before this group was caught and the stage was then set for the race-winning finale.
Curran set the seal on a wonderful afternoon for his team, with defending champion Mark Walsham claiming second place in a hot sprint from Chris Lillywhite (Raleigh-Banana).
'Paul had really been making it hard,' said Tim Gould. 'I just couldn't stay with him when he jumped at the end. I haven't had a race on the road for a few weeks, but mountain biking doesn't seem to affect my performance. Winning the Man versus Horse race was fantastic, there was so much publicity afterwards.'
For the sponsors, Richard Musson was well pleased with the afternoon. 'We see cycling as an excellent way to promote our product, Cardiff is a good place to do it at the moment, the leisure department here have been very helpful, we hope to be back.'
After giving the universal hand sign for 'who knows' when asked if Curran would stay away, manager John Herety nearly fell over with delight at the end. 'Wales does seem to suit our team,' he agreed. 'This will have done Paul's confidence a lot of good. He won in his old style today, breaking away from a small group to win on his own'
1. PAUL CURRAN (Percy Bilton) 90km in 1-53-34
2. M. Walsham (Percy Bilton) at 7sec
3. C. Lillywhite (Raleigh-Banana)
4. D. Rayner (Raleigh-Banana)
5. N. Barnes (PMS- Falcon)
6. H. McMurdo (Airmarshall)
7. S. Joughin (Percy Bilton)
8. J. Clay (Raleigh-Banana)
9. S. Cope (Alpha Print)
10. D. Baker (Cycles Peugeot)
11. J. Walshaw (Percy Bilton)
12. C. Sturgess (A.D.R)
13. A. Wood (unsponsored)
14. K. Reynolds (PMS -Falcon)
15. S. Douce (Raleigh-Banana)
16. K. Smith (Alpha Print)
17. A. Taylor (unsponsored)
18. R. Smith (Vitesse Sports)
19. J. Kershaw (unsponsored)
20. R. Downs (Percy Bilton)
21, P. Brown (unsponsored); 22, C. Walker (Raleigh-Banana); 23, M. Doyle (PMS -Falcon); 24, R. Williams (Ever Ready Gold Seal); 25, N. Smith (Alpha Print); 26, S. Sefton (Percy Bilton); 27, A. Timmis (Raleigh- Banana); 28, D. Webster (Teka); 29, P. Bayton (Ever Ready Gold Seal); 30, I. Binder (unsponsored); 31, T. Doyle (Ever Ready Gold Seal); 32, P. Thomas (Ever Ready); 33, T. Harris (Raleigh-Banana); 34, S. Jones (PMS- Falcon); 35, R. Holden (Percy Bilton); 36, T. Gould (Cycles Peugeot) all st; 37, K. Martin (Ridge Racing) at 56sec.