|GRAND PRIX OF WALES|
PROFESSIONAL pride was dented on Sunday when Great Britain amateur Ben Luckwell won the pro-am Robert Price Grand Prix of Wales at Abergavenny, outsprinting PMS-Falcon's Keith Reynolds and Frederic Vichot (Helvetia-La Suisse) of France.
And to complete the professionals humiliation amateurs Harry Lodge and Wayne Randle were fourth and fifth.
Although some excuses could he found for the Percy Biltons who had just returned from the Tour of Limousin that morning, and the rest of the pros tired after travelling from Friday night's Kellogg's race in Ireland, Vichot made no excuses. He said it was a hard race, a good course and that Luckwell was a good sprinter.
Reynolds said: 'That is nine second places I have had this year' (The Milk Race would be the most important).
'We have been doing six or seven-hour training rides each day for the Kellogg's Tour of Britain, and I didn't think I would get round today. We got the 8am boat back yesterday and had a terrible day.
If Reynolds had had a bad day on the Saturday, then Luckwell had a superb day on Sunday.
'I'm in a state of shock,' was his first reaction. 'I didn't think I would get that sprint. It was a job to get Vichot's wheel, then Reynolds put me into the barriers.'
Nearly a third of the race belonged to Nigel Smith (Crown Graphics-Chafes), who was out on his own for 47 of the scheduled 135 miles after breaking away early on.
Smith's target was Monmouth where the race was to do six laps before heading out into the Welsh countryside. The reason was purely mercenary as £25 primes were on offer each lap, and Smith had said that he needed the money.
The field were in a surprisingly charitable mood, allowing Smith to build up a lead from a minute to four minutes before he began lapping them in Monmouth. He took all six primes, a cool £150 worth, and then his team mate Paul Brown took another £25 for winning the bunch sprint.
With six laps completed, both Smith and the bunch should have headed out of town, but a misunderstanding saw them all doing an extra lap in Monmouth before heading out into the country.
Smith's lead, from 4-29 was cut to 1-9 at Skiffern Castle on the B4521 road to Abergavenny.
From 40 seconds to 30 seconds, Smith's lead came down, and with 47 miles covered he was back in the bunch, tired but wealthier.
Almost immediately a new break formed, not that of one rider, but 25 of them and for varying reasons. Ahead
lay the climb of The Tumble, pleasure for some, agony for others. The climbers in the group wanted to gain time, while the non-climbers were hoping not to lose any.
The group contained all the big names - Matthew Stephens, (GB), Wayne Randle, Nigel Bishop, Joey McLoughlin (Z-Peugeot), Luckwell, Cayn Theakston, Lodge, Reynolds and David Cook,
And from that break, four men found room at the front: Curran, Luckwell, Adrian Timmis (Raleigh- Banana) and Jeff Wright (England). It lasted for a few miles, then the two groups merged, only for three more to break away.
This time Vichot, Stephens, and Lodge had found the space they were seeking: one very experienced professional, and two very talented British amateurs, likely to propel Britain strongly into the international scene in the 1990s - professional inducements not withstanding.
Vichot was the strong man, and a good crowd was out on The Tumble to see the 30-year-old Frenchman, ninth in last year's Kellogg's Tour, top the climb ahead of Lodge and Stephens.
At Abersychan, just before Pontypool on the A4043 they had 55 seconds advantage, but it was down to 34 seconds, then riding again to 45 seconds as the road twisted and turned.
Into Abergavenny for the first of the 10-laps, the lead had increased to 2-10, then 2-27, thanks to the work of the three in front. It was to stay around 2-30 until an attack was launched from the chasing group by Frankie Pattyn ( Miniflat-Isoglass).
The idea caught on, with the chase now intensifying, and the lead down to 1-42, then 1-16 with four circuits left to do.
Next ime round it was 55 seconds, then 40 seconds out on the circuit. It was time for Curran to make his now familiar break. The alarm bell that whizzed around in his head successfully so many times during his amateur career, which had been activated again in the recent race on Gun Hill, shrilled loud and clear. It was time to go. Luckwell, Cook and Theakston, had also heard the call, and they joined in.
The lead came down from 30 seconds to just five, then the three leaders were absorbed, and with more joining on, there were now 12 good men and true out front and rehearsing their victory speech.
Curran tried again, but it didn't work, and then a new initiative came from Reynolds, with approval by Luckwell and Vichot.
It was into the final lap, and the lead was only about 20 seconds, with an almighty pursuit taking place from the remaining nine from the break.
They swung into Frogmore Street for the last time. Vichot led out, Reynolds came past, then Luckwell sniffed the air, and headed for the line and another victory in a long line successes that had started in March when he had set the standard in the Grand Prix of Essex. 'Vichot was really strong,' said Luckwell. Keith said he was cramping up. It was a bit of a long sprint. When Vichot attacked on the hill I was three lengths off.'
It had been a tremendous race well-organised by Bill Owens and his crew, and apart from one official police motorcyclist on his first cycle race-well controlled.
The Robert Price organisation makes this tremendous race possible every year. Long may it continue.
1. BEN LUCKWELL (Great Britain) 135m in 5-39-22
2. K. Reynolds (PMS-Falcon)
3. F. Vichot (Helvetia-La Suisse), both st
4. H. Lodge (Belgium) at l5sec
5. W. Randle (GB) at l9sec
6. F. Pattyn (Miniflat-Isoglass)
7. N. Barnes (PMS-Falcon)
8. D.Webster (Teka) st
9. D. Cook (GB) at 2lsec
10. N. Bishop (GB) st
11. M. Stephens (GB) at 26sec
12. C. Theakston (Luleatano) at 30sec
13. S. Cook (England) at 2-5
14. P. Curran (Percy Bilton) at 2-53
15. K. Vindevoer (Minitlat) at 5-24
16. H. McMurdo (Airmarshall-Kirk) at 5-24
17. S. Farrell (GB)
18. P. Rogers (Eng) both st
19. S. Douce (Raleigh-Banana) at 5-25
20. N. Dunn (Eng) at 5-29.
Points: Vichot, 47; 2, Lodge, Stephens, 39.