Considered by many to be the toughest one day race in Australia, the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic has been running for over 50 years. Last weekend four brave Armidale Cycling Club souls took on the challenge, racing the 228km of unforgiving road up and across the Great Dividing Range. Their efforts were incredible, their stories even more so.
Phil Thomas – Division 3 – 14th in 3B and 45th overall in Division 3 – 8h:03m:11s
Phil typically enjoys long, flat time trials. 3,382 vertical metres of climbing including an 18km mountain ascent isn’t really his natural game but that just made him train harder than ever for months ahead of the race. The week before Grafton he underscored his form, finishing 5th in the 72km Invergowrie Road Race. On that day he didn’t just hang in on the hills but actually rode away from his bunch at only half-distance, fending off cramps at the end to cross the line just ahead of Inverell Scratch rider Callum Dolby who he’d meet again the next weekend different circumstances.
Grafton in 2017 for Phil was a big achievement, summed up wonderfully by his wife who got him a gift and a card to mark the achievement. The card said “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid broadside thoroughly used-up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming WHOA WHAT A RIDE”
In Phil’s words “that pretty much sums up how you feel at the end of the race no matter the place”. It also says a lot about Phil and his wonderful attitude to cycling and life.
Bill Mara – Division 3 – 15th in 3B and 46th overall in Division 3 – 8h:09m:37s
Usually we need to do a bit of editing on rider contributions to this site. In the case of Billy, we didn’t. Here in his own inimitable style is his unabridged take on the day…
“The G2I? Karl Marx would have described it as bourgeois (I think that’s French for wanker) middle class mass temporary insanity. I’m inclined to agree. All that pedaling could have propped up the creaking National Grid for a year, and anyone who smiles in an event like that should probably be sectioned. That said, I did smile (inside) out on the open and windy section before Glen Innes. Although I was, by that time, alone in the wilderness (PT a diminishing speck on the horizon) I realised that I still had good legs, I was making good time and was reasonably sure I was going to finish.
Still disappointed with the feed at Glen (no @#$%#$ Chicko Roll?). There was a nice moment riding with Holly, cheerfully chatting like she was on an afternoon stroll. Lets face it, from the results, that’s what it was for her.
The finish was a bit of an anti climax for me because I knew that, sadly, Glen Innes would never look that good again. I would advise anyone contemplating competing in the next G2I to seek counseling immediately… from Kirky.
I must thank the Soigneur extraordinaire (pardon my French again) Michael (The Machine) Hoult and Soigneur Swanny for their generosity, help, nursing, patience, encouragement. I’ll have to stop there I’m making myself sick. And of course Phil Thomas for mercilessly hammering me on our training rides.
I did pack a sedative, but I had to give it to Houlty. He’s such a caring soul. Good luck to all you nutters in Tamworth next weekend. I’m going to Sawtell for a long weekend.
The former endurance cyclist,
Holly Harris – Division 3 – 2nd in the Womens Category and 12th overall in Division 3 – 7h:07m:32s
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you and no, that’s not a typo. 7h:07m:32s. That is a fast time – actually an overall race-winning time not so very long ago.
We didn’t manage to get to speak to Holly in person before writing this. Not content with riding out of her skin on her first attempt at the Grafton, on Monday she was on a plane to the Czech Republic to compete in the Mountain Bike World Cup. Oh, and just to make things a bit more challenging, she’s gone up a grade, competing in the U23 category. Fortunately her race support crew (Dad) was around to provide some insights into her race last Saturday although Dave was working as spares support for the NRS race so he didn’t get to see as much of her race as he’d have liked.
“…not being able to read the information about the KOM and sprint points that was taped to her top tube did cause a slight problem on the approach into Jackadgery – she noticed the pace really pick up with everyone attacking to the point where she thought she might end up getting dropped – fortunately not for long!
The funniest bit for me was watching Holly and Darren Schaefer practicing the feed bag transfer in the car park of the motel, the first attempt was with an empty bag at 5km per hour and a dismal failure which did not bode well for the real thing with 2 bottles and food at 30km per hour…”
Apparently this was actually extremely funny to watch – several NRS riders observed the pair from the balcony at the motel – no doubt shouting encouragement and before long there was a large crowd which would have really helped. We’re pretty sure Holly knew exactly what she was doing, but that Darren Schaefer…
“…fortunately, all went well. Apart from that, the girls said it was great to have the Armidale boys in the group and to know there were some friendly folk around them.
On a personal note, helping out on the race was a real buzz and I’d certainly be keen to do it again. It is really cool to see the race unfold and listen to all the action on the race radio. The organisation team were really calm and ran a great event. It was great to see a group of guys who got shelled on the climb regroup and pedal back onto the main bunch over the top – never give up.”
Good luck next weekend in Czech Holly! Live results should be available online here http://mtb2017nmnm.com/results
David Munday – Division 2 – 7th in 2B and 18th overall in Division 2 – 6h:45m:06s
Last but most definitely not least, Dave Munday. The residents of Rockvale Road will know Dave well by now as he’s spent just about every weekend over the last 6 months training the house down on that road, often before dawn, doing punishing hill repeats and dodging kangaroos on the descents, then turning up at racing in the afternoon with 5 hrs in his legs and still managing to dominate the results. No one could say he wasn’t ready for Grafton.
When asked how he would sum up the 2017 race, Dave’s reply gives some insight into his motivations.
“For me it was a goal achieved for two. Roger and I had always planned to do the G2I and it was a race he really wanted to do with me. That was put on hold whilst he was sick and unfortunately we never got the opportunity to achieve that goal together. I originally planned to ride it in 2016 but changed my focus to ride the Tour de Cure from Brisbane to Sydney instead to raise funds for cancer. So 2017 was the year I said I would take on the G2I and race for the two of us. It might seem strange to say it but I really enjoyed the race, I suspect because I had a lot of sentimental reasons for doing it.
Climbing the Gibraltar Range is really special. It’s certainly not the place where the race is won, but it could easily be where it’s lost. I was in a good position at the base of the climb but after 10km sitting at 177bpm, something had to give. I couldn’t keep up that speed and effort for the rest of the climb so backed it off. That was the decision point in my race – backing off and still getting a good time v’s charging on and hitting the wall big time, potentially not finishing. It’s not necessarily a race won on fitness, it’s the mental toughness that gets you through.
It wasn’t all pain and suffering though, Dave managed quite a few smiles along the way, especially when grabbing his feedbag from Jacqui and tucking into his secret weapon of honey sandwiches – wrapped in foil – just like the pros. He also managed a pretty big smile at the end, having recorded an outrageously fast time of 6h:45m:06s.
Most riders would probably take a bit of time out after a race like that but not Dave, he’s already talking about the 2018 event and you just know that he’s going to want to better that time so watch out Rockvale residents, he’ll be hitting your doorsteps sometime around December…