Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Grafton to Inverell 2006

“THE GRAFTON” – It seemed liked a good idea at the time i had entered Australias toughest,longest and most famous road race.I was lining up in beautiful spring weather in Grafton with 200 of Australia’s best and craziest road cyclists. The day before I drove over the 228km course –Yes that’s right 228km and after driving the course I wanted to go home. It’s a hilly course with one climb being the Gibraltar Range, a 18km climb with no rests, climbing from basically sea level up to the New England Tablelands. We raced for about 70kms before the Gibraltar Range and the peloton was all together except for one rider, Andrew Grady from Qld who attacked and tried to conquer the range himself. The race had 5 feed stations with the first being at the base of the climb and being such a long race I slowed down looking for my support crew Damian Cumming and John Cook. FIRST ERROR. With over 100 riders in my race it was hard to find my man holding the feedbag and what I didn’t know, that some riders didn’t take the first feed and or had a faster station and attacked the range without the rest of the peloton. As I started the climb I saw the breakaway group of over 20 riders disappear around the first corner chasing Grady which they caught before the top. DAMM !! I missed the breakaway that would stay away for the rest of the day.

The 18km climb took a hour to ride and picking up dropped riders that couldn’t handle the pace of the breakaway, we had a group of about 30 riders in the chase group coming over the summit. At the second feed station we were given the gap time of 10 mins, they had ridden the mountain hard and this was our chance to pull back some time. Only 8 riders including me were working on the front pushing the wind , while the rest of the group drafted not willing to help and saving energy. We wore the deficit down to about 5 mins and that’s where it stayed for the rest of the day. We raced through Glenn Innes with the town’s folk lining the main street clapping and cheering and then on our way to Inverell. Another small climb the Waterloo Range 40 km out of Inverell and the attacks started again with riders trying to break free from the group, but this time we didn’t let anyone go. It came down to a sprint in the main street of Inverell and I was 7th over the line, which gave me 15th place overall. A little disappointed that I missed the break but happy that I finished the toughest, longest and most famous one day race in Australia. My computer read 236km in 7h 5 mins with an av of 33.2 kph and with 5 mountain climbs one being an hour long I knew why my legs were feeling a little tired.

It seemed a good idea at the time and it was. What an amazing race, anyone who finishes it does well and anyone who wins it is a bloody tough bike rider. I learnt a lot about such a big race, with a major climb, multiple feed stations and associated tactics. I’ll be back next year


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