|Moorlands Classic Road Race|
PAUL CURRAN gave the Percy Bilton team their second win in less than 17 hours and a winning send-off to the Tour of Limousin - when he took the Staffordshire Moorlands Classic professional road race at Leek.
There is a touch of irony in the fact that Curran, Britain's leading amateur roadman until signing for Biltons, took the national criterium championship at Cardiff last month but has had to wait until now for his first success in the very kind of event which he won almost to order during the four seasons in which he dominated the Star Trophy.
It was just like old times. A small break, and then a well-timed attack which saw the double Commonwealth gold-medallist solo his way to victory, leaving the others grovelling in his wake.
This break, however, was small in number but almost embarrassingly large in time.
Curran, Keith Reynolds (PMS-Falcon) and Adrian Timmis (Raleigh-Banana) had been a massive 23 minutes clear of the field at one stage in the 92-mile race, over eight laps of the Gun Hill circuit, which meant they were within five minutes of lapping the bunch on an 11-mile circuit.
Australia's Tony Hughes (Repco) went almost from the end of the neutralised section and had built up a 2-15 lead on the first climb of Gun Hill, which perhaps gave some indication of the inertia in the bunch.
Curran, Reynolds, Timmis and Gary Baker (Ever Ready Gold Seal) were the exceptions, giving chase and bringing the gap down to half a minute as they completed the first lap.
They caught Hughes on the long straight out of Leek before turning left through Meerbrook towards Gun Hill for the second time, and Baker and Hughes lost contact on the climb as Curran took the first of the day's six primes ahead of Timmis and Reynolds.
As they approached half-distance they were 10 minutes up, Timmis pulling his wheel over at the top of the Gun Hill climb on the fourth lap but quickly rejoining the other two on the descent.
Hughes and Baker dangled between break and bunch for some considerable time, but basically that was the end of the story until Nick Barnes (PMS-Falcon) and Steve Sefton (Percy Bilton) went off in pursuit.
Then, six more riders went clear early on the penultimate lap.
On the last climb Timmis put in an attack on the lower slopes, but Curran and Reynolds were equal to it and Curran counter attacked when they came to the steepest section, jumping past Timmis and quickly opening up a lead.
By the finish in Leek's Brough Park, with the rain lashing down, he was 29 seconds clear of Reynolds as Timmis slipped a further 47 seconds adrift.
Barnes had gone back dramatically, leaving Sefton alone to take fourth place, more than 18 minutes behind Curran, with Chris Lillywhite (Raleigh-Banana) leading in the rest.
Curran had good reason to be pleased.
'Winning the criterium championship was more important, because it was a national title, but I certainly had to work harder for today's win,' he said as he dried off in the team bus.
'It was especially hard today, because I haven't ridden anything like this since the national road race championship, six or seven weeks ago.'
Joey McLoughlin (Z-Peugeot) lasted the full distance in his first race back since his knee operation, and was also due to compete in the Tour of Limousin, where he finished second overall last year.
Missing the Moorlands race, however, was World's selection Dave Rayner (Raleigh-Banana), who had been thrown over the bars when he struck a stray pedestrian at Newport the previous night.
Rayner finished the Nocturne but was later found to have cracked a bone in his wrist, and was sporting a plaster at Leek.
'I shall be back on my bike tomorrow, but I won't be riding the Kellogg's events in Ireland this week,' he told me. 'The main thing now is to get back for the World's and the Kellogg's.'
Meanwhile, the Biltons face a hectic dash back from the Tour of Limousin, which does not finish until 4pm on Saturday, to be on the line at Abergavenny for the Grand Prix of Wales on Sunday morning.
1. PAUL CURRAN (Percy Bilton) 92m in 3-50-30
2. K. Reynolds (PMS-Falcon) at 29sec
3. A. Timmis (Raleigh-Banana) at 1-16
4. S. Sefton (Percy Bilton) at 18-18
5. C. Lillywhite (Raleigh-Banana) at 19-49
6. R. Holden (Percy Bilton) at 19-51
7. H. McMurdo (Airmarshall-Kirk)
8. C. Theakston (GS Louletano)
9. B. Burns (Ever Ready Gold Seal)
10. T. Gould (Cycles Peugeot UK) all st.
King of the Mountains: CURRAN 20pts; 2, Timmis 16; 3, Reynolds.