Tour de Loire et Cher
Paul Curran was heading for a bumper haul of prizes after winning the fourth stage of the French Tour de Loire et Cher on Saturday. With one day to go, Curran was leading the mountains and hot spot sprint competitions and also wearing the jersey of most aggressive rider.
He came into form as the weather changed after days of rain, snow and crosswinds that had seen him lose 35 minutes in the first two stages.
The 1985 Star Trophy winner was not feeling at his best when he started the race. "The first two days I got blown out the back. It was cold and wet - I expected it to be nice and warm in France.
"The first day I got dropped five times and five times I got back to the bunch. On the second stage about 10 of us got blown out the back after 30 miles. We worked together and got to the finish."
Curran's next trip is to the Circuit des Mines. "I'll have a good go in that," he said. The Milk Race will not be too far away by then, but Curran may have to ride another stage race in Belgium that finishes four days before the Milk Race begins. "I'd prefer not to ride, I feel tired after a stage race, but Albert (Hitchen) knows best."
What of the long term future? "Well, it is getting a bit expensive riding for Great Britain and there comes a time when you have to call it a day. After all, I'm 26 now," Curran said.
"I'll have to wait and see what comes up. Maybe I'll get some offers to turn professional."
Nick Barnes was best Briton on stage one, sprinting to fifth place in a leading group of 16 that gained 13-52 on the rest of the field.
There was disappointment for Britain with the retirement of Deno Davie, who lost a lot of time after an early puncture, and Pete Longbottom, dropped in a crosswind.
Veprancke (Belgium); 5, N. Barnes, st; 17, P. Bateman, at 13-52; 45, J. Tonks, at 14-28; 50, P. Curran, st.
John Tonks was sixth on stage two with Curran more than 21 minutes down.
Worna (Poland); 6, Tonks, at 7sec; 18 Barnes, at l8sec; 39, Bateman, at 11-50; 49, Curran, at 21-18.
Curran, from Cleveland, hit form on the third stage, breaking away for 50 miles with a Dutch rider. They were caught but then Curran escaped again. This time it was the winning break. With the race leader and his team-mate in the four-man move, Curran had to do most of the driving and finished fourth in the same time as the winner, Stephniewski of Poland.
"I got away after 10 miles and a group of us stayed clear for 40 miles before being caught. Then three Poles, a West German and a Frenchman went. I tagged on and took fourth place," Curran said.
1. Stephniewski (Poland)
4. Curran, st
9. Bateman, at 52sec
25. Tonks both st
Stage four was another Anglo Polish affair as Curran went away in an early break. When that was caught he escaped again with Tonks and Pole Szerszynski. They gained a maximum lead of 1-40 before Curran jumped away in a climb with eight kilometres to go. Tonks sat on the Pole and was unlucky to miss a British one-two when he was swept up by the bunch with only 400 metres to go.
"After the day's first sprint I kept going and I did the same on the prime hill. I looked back and saw John Tonks coming up and I waited for him. A small group formed and on the last hill with 30 kilometres to go I attacked alone. Tonks sat on the Pole in the break and I stayed away to win by 20 seconds."
1. Paul Curran (GB)
8. Barnes, at 18sec
27. Bateman, both st.
AN unlucky last day in the Tour de Loir et Cher cost Britain's Paul Curran victory in the mountains and hot spot sprint competitions.
Curran led the competitions until the sixth stage when a puncture put him out of the running.
"I punctured at the top of the prime hill and by the time the service car was able to get up to me a two-man break had gone clear. I had been in the leading group when it happened.
"The last stage was on a circuit that had to be covered five times and on each lap there was a hot spot sprint and a mountain prime. The pair who were no threat to the overall leaders were allowed to stay away and collected all the points. I fell back to third place in both competitions," Curran said.