Cycling: Holden's gamble reaps rewards as hills are alive with peril: British rider leads the pack while the Kazakhstan team suffer an attack of motorway madness as the 1993 Milk Race begins in Kent

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THE MILK RACE opened in Kent for the first time in 36 years with a British win but an Australian and the Kazakhstan team brought sweat to a few brows as Tunbridge Wells turned out to watch the pick of 13 nations.

Rob Holden, second in 1990 to his Banana team-mate, Shane Sutton, returned this year with Neilson-Tivoli, and squeezed a five-second victory out of a tight circuit where hills and sharp corners trapped the unwary. 'I took a gamble, and it came off. I could not have a much better morale- booster after struggling in previous races,' Holden said after averaging 26.6mph on a 2.3-mile circuit.

Holden's roll of the dice was a winner, but Henk Vogels, 19 and eager, threw it all away on one corner. The Australian was five seconds faster than Holden at the halfway mark, but went too fast into a corner, bounced over a kerb, raced several yards on the pavement, and back on to the road.

Vogels was top of the leaderboard until Holden arrived, but was consoled with a pounds 500 prize for being the fastest to the midway point. Conor Henry arrived at the start ramp in the yellow jersey of the 1992 winner, then stripped it off to reveal the emerald green of Ireland, but the Belfast rider was not looking for a 1993 fitting in yellow, just yet. 'I took it easy on those corners. You can only make a couple of seconds, and with so far to go it's not worth it,' Henry said after finishing 18 seconds behind Holden.

Earlier in the weekend and more than 250 miles north of the Kentish spa, the Kazakhstan team proudly took their new racing bikes, provided by the Deeside dealer, Graham Weigh, for a training ride - on the hard shoulder of the M62 at Burtonwood. They quickly realised the error of their ways, but one strayed too far, and was arrested, and later released, by security police who found him on Ministry of Defence property. Yesterday Andrei Mizourov was the best of their team, finishing seventh.

Today the 102 riders race through Kent, bringing championship car racing at Brands Hatch to a halt for a couple of laps on the Indy circuit, before returning to Tunbridge Wells for the finish. That is the first of 12 road racing legs of a race that covers more than 1,100 miles before finishing in Manchester on 12 June.

MILK RACE Prologue Time Trial (Tunbridge Wells, 2.3 miles): 1 R Holden (Neilson, GB) 5min 11.01sec; 2 H Vogels (Aus) +5sec; 3 K Reynolds (Banana, GB) +7; 4 B Smith (Banana, GB) +9; 5 O Simensen (Nor) +10; 6 W Randle (Neilson, GB) +11; 7 A Mizourov (Kaz) same time; 8 R Vandaele (Bel) +12; 9 N Van der Steen (Neth); 10 F Hoej (Den) both s/t. Selected British placings: 13 S Bray (Britannia) +13; 15 C Lillywhite (Banana) s/t; 17 M Walsham (Banana) +14; 18 P Curran (GB) s/t; 20 M Illingworth (Britannia) +15; 26 J Charlesworth (Britannia) +16; 28 M McKay (GB) +18; 32 B Luckwell (Banana) +19; 33 J Tanner (Neilson); 35 S Hempsall (GB) both s/t; 38 M Postle (Britannia) +20; 58 N Hoban (Neilson) +25; 62 T Doyle (Neilson) s/t; 66 I Gilkes (Britannia) +27; 71 P Longbottom (GB) +28.

(Maps omitted)