The winners receive their prizes. In first place, Nathan Elliott was presented with the Jack Griffith Shield, winners jersey and the National Road Series leaders jersey. Raphael Freienstein, in second, was also the King of the Mountain and the Clarence Valley Sprint King. Cameron Scott from the Australian Cycling Academy, who came in third place, was also named the Best Young Rider.
The provisional winners of division two have been calculated, with Dane Murray from the Gold Coast in first, followed by Ben Manson from the University of Newcastle and Tim Hoy from the Gold Coast.
It’s a photo finish! Nathan Elliot from Bennelong SwissWellness came first, just a hair in front of Raphael Freienstein from Inform Make. Inverell’s own Ryan Thomas flew in just a moment after the leaders, in fifth place.
The front four are sticking together well as the riders emerge Inverell, about 30 kilometres out of town.
The break-away of four has a gap of two minutes to the main chasing group, which is led by Cyrus Monk of Drapac EF Cycling and Michael Potter from the Australian Cycling Academy.
Ben Dyball from St George Continental and individual rider Troy Herfoss from Goulburn are in between the groups, approximately one minute apart from the front.
An unknown lone rider is chasing the break-away group, who are fighting a heavy headwind and weather just over one degree. The gap to the main group is around two minutes, 20 seconds, and there’s a chance the field will begin the attack on the climb. Peter Sunderland predicts another hour and a half of racing. With two already under his belt, Raphael Freienstein is in with a good chance of becoming the King of the Mountain if he takes this climb.
The chase bunch has shortened the gap to about one minute, 30 seconds. The bulk of the climbing is out of the way, but there’s still a lot left to go. Jesse Featonby, Raphael Freienstein, Nathan Elliott and Timothy Cameron are still in front.
Division three has gone through the Mount Mitchell feed zone and there is a break-away of three riders ahead of the main bunch, including David Bingley of Launceston City, Mark Joseph Jeffrey from Tamworth and Christopher Joustra of Latrobe City.
The division one field now has a break-away of four, with a chase group of nine, and another 20 charging to catch up. The field is now split over 10-15 minutes. The first riders are expected to reach Inverell about 1.15pm.
The main group in division one is about 30km out of Glen Innes. The peloton split into two up the mountain, but came back together into one group of about 70. The weather is still a factor, at approximately nine degrees, with a lot of debris still on the road. There’s about 97km left in the race. According to Peter Sunderland, it’s still anybody’s race, with good numbers represented from all the teams. Riders are expected to make their major moves after Glen Innes.
The group of four up the front have been identified as Jesse Featonby of Drapac EF Cycling Raphael Freienstein of Inform Make NRS, Nathan Elliott of Bennelong SwissWellness and Timothy Cameron of St George Continental. They have a gap of three minutes, 25 seconds to individual Penrith ride Peter Milostic and Rapha Sydney’s Darcy Ellerm-Norton, who are four minutes, 15 seconds to the main chasing group.
Division one is 120 km into the 228 km race. There’s a break of four out the front with a 45 second gap, including Bennelong SwissWellness favourite Nathan Elliott. The main chase group has swelled to 30 as a group of 10 rejoins through the main feed zone.
The break-away group in division one is now down to 13 riders. Sam Crome, Conor Murtagh, Jack Sutton, Oliver Kent-Spark, Sascha Bondarenko-Edwards, Raphael Freienstein, Julian Thomson, Jake Marryat, Cameron Ivory, Cameron Roberts, Timothy Cameron, Ryan Cavanagh, Oliver Martin and Trevor Spencer are still riding tempo up the hills.
Division three are climbing the range, getting ready for the cold winds.
The gap to the break-away group temporarily stretched out to over six minutes, but is now down to around three minutes. Most teams have riders in the group, with the peloton chasing hard. The chilly weather and winds will be a challenge as the main group heads up the Gibraltar Range, with debris on the road. There’s about seven kilometres left on the climb.
The results are in for the Des Femmes sprint, with Anna Beck from the University of Queensland coming in first, with Jessica Pratt from Balmoral in second and Megan Scott from Giant, Sydney in third. In division three, the sprint winner is Latrobe City’s Christopher Joustra, followed by Scott Walcot from Coffs Harbour and Erron Hennessy of Murwillumbah.
The break away group is 17 riders strong, and have managed to create a four minute gap from the main peloton.
Division three are about 125km from Glen Innes, with two race leaders approaching a one minute lead. In the division two sprint, Cameron Judson of Harlequin came in first, followed by David Evans of Manly Warringah and Stuart Grieve of Northern Sydney.
A bunch of 14-18 riders lead the pack by approximately 40 seconds about 25km in, including team members of Olivers Racing, GPM Stulz, Drapac EF Cycling, Bennelong Swiss Wellness, the Australian Cycling Academy, AMR Renault and solo entrant Dan Bonello. Oliver Kent Spark, Sam Crome, Ryan Cavanagh, Cam Ivory, and Jack Sutton are thought to be in the front bunch.
There are 102 riders taking on the race in division two. They are sticking together early in the race, and preparing for the weather changes ahead, according to Rick Adams. Locals will be keeping an eye out for Inverell riders Alwyn Miller, Jason Sprang and Zak Sunderland. Two leaders, David Randall of Van dam Racing and William Barker Phoenix Cycling Collective have made a break for it in division 1. They have a 30 second lead but seem unlikely to hold it on. It’s 15 kilometres into the race, not far from the Cattle Creek climb, which could begin to split the peloton. The division three riders, including 30 women and 30 in the challenge, non-competitive category have taken off.
…And they’re off! With record numbers in all three divisions, the first division sets off on the toughest one day cycle race in Australia. Inverell cycling fans will keep their fingers crossed for locals Ryan Thomas and Chris Hamilton.
The first names are going up as teams prepare for one of the toughest Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classics in recent years.
With headwinds of up to 45 kilometres an hour predicted for after the peak of the Gibraltar Range local and former Grafton to Inverell rider Peter Sunderland expects the race will stretch to six and a half hours this year. A broad smile on his face, local A Grade rider Ryan Thomas admitted the cold weather had come as “a bit of a shock” for many. Although he’d been unwell and unable to train hard in the past week, Thomas felt it could give him an advantage. “I usually race well on fresh legs,” he told the Grafton to Inverell committee.
Nathan Elliott from Bennelong Swiss Wellness, who as a dual Melbourne to Warrnambool winner, is in the running for the top spot, said the headwind predictions should make the race “interesting”. “It’ll definitely make the race harder, but whether it splits (riders) up a bit, it’s hard to tell,” he said. National under 23 road race champion Cyrus Monk said he was feeling well, and said he was surprised by his recent success in Europe. The 2016 Grafton to Inverell winner Pat Lane said he’d love to win another one. With the headwinds, he said it would be really important to “ride a bit smarter a race”.