Four of five Armidale entrants finished the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic on Saturday 12 September, a great result and a reward for all their hard work and preparation. Here are their stories:
John was handed in a big challenge after being drawn in B grade, and was understandably a bit concerned about how he was going to go when he looked around at the start and noticed that most of the field looked like jockeys who would fly up the Gibralter Range!
He hung on with the main bunch until a couple of km’s into the climb where he lost touch and then had to ride the next 80km solo in a real suffer-fest. At Glen Innes the third group of C grade riders caught up to him, and he was able to sit in this bunch for the rest of the ride into Inverell.
Despite going through a lot of pain John was the fastest of the Armidale riders, finishing in a time of 7h54m. Afterwards, his feeling about the race was similar to Theo de Rooy’s following the 1985 Paris-Roubaix (see here if you need reminding, search for de Rooy).
He was justafiably over the moon to have finished the race at his first attempt.
Col definitely wasn’t making his debut! He rode in C grade finishing in 8h06m. This is what he had to say:
“Good to have finished this great race again. Luck was not with me on the day as I missed getting into a group over the top of Gibraltar and rode solo for about 80kms (almost to Glen Innes) before a slow group from behind caught me up. I had to slow right down to let them catch up as I could see them for quite a while and they took forever to close the gap. They were slow going up hills and we had to wait for the slower riders to catch up again to keep the group together. Only three of us were doing decent turns with about four doing the occasional turn and mostly sitting on. End result was a time about 1 hour slower than the last time I did the race but at least I finished safe and sound.
Usually, I lose ground going up Gibraltar (I have never been able to stay with the front of C Grade on this climb) but go over the top not too far back and have got back to the second or third group by working with some others. Not this time, the few just in front of me got together quickly and were gone, chasing those in front of them and I had no chance of bridging on my own. C’est la vie.
It’s probably fair to say that Phil was the least experienced of the Armidale riders, having only started serious racing at the beginning of this year. He was also in C grade, and finished not far behind Col in 8h23m. I’d have to say it was a brave effort on Phil’s part. This is his story:
“I seem to have told this story a couple of times now but I am not tired of it.
It was a great race but you need to be able to climb!!!! And we had great weather – for a first time you could not wish for better conditions. I started off by staying with the front pack that split off from the rest at about 25kout of Grafton. Col was in that group as well.
At the beginning of the mountain (due to the fact that I did not know what was needed to finish) I let the pack go and made my way up at my own pace 12-14ks/hr. The hardest part of the mountain was after the official top as there was then a relentless climb that seem to be several ks long with (unlike the mountain) no respite.
Picked up another rider (Jim) going up the mountain and we rode together to the second neutral water stop and the 1st feed station. After that we picked up a few riders and eventually a group of 5 that grew to 10 –and then 15 or so.
One of our workers cramped and we had a nature stop to give him a chance. During the stop another large-ish group came through and everybody hurried to get onto them. I was a bit slow to finish with nature (recommend a catheter) and had a 4-5 k chase (40k plus) with another rider to catch them. Having caught them managed to hold with them (people dropped off here and there continually) until Wire Gully (other side of Glenn) and then could not hold that steep hill climb.
After the climb I found another rider from Brisbane and we worked together until the finish but I tailed him for the last 10-15 ks helping when I could.
Arrived in Inverell at 8h 20-22 mins – which is a PB for me – (bit over 27k/hr average) with nothing left at the end – and very happy.
Advice for those that are tipping the scales in the higher percentiles for cycling – practice climbing and in the race stay with large groups wherever possible.
Great race – if possible 2010 (50th) would be good to be in – made some tentative plans already but within a busy life – who knows if it will be possible.”
Pete entered in C grade with a group friends, with the goal of finishing the race together inside the time limit. They planned and executed this to perfection, with 8 minutes to spare in a time of 8h52m, and like the others was very pleased to finish:
“Perfect day for racing last Saturday. Temps were on our side with little to no wind to speak of. Glen Innes approx 23 degrees. Whilst we all started together in Grafton, Col remained at the front of the 135 strong group. Phil and I were probably in the back third of the group and after approx 40 k’s at Jackadgery Gap, the field splintered with the pace at the front on the climb going into overdrive.
I was at the back with my other two friends and we became separated from Phil who went with the group. Phil and Col were then able to remain with the main group & that was the last I saw of them until Inverell. I understand that Col climbed the mountain with them but Phil got dropped at the beginning of the mountain and was able to form another group to continue the ride.
I rode with my friends as a team for the rest of the journey and had a great time. The mountain was everything we expected- challenging and never ending. We finished with a time of 8.51 with 9 minutes to spare to officially record a time for the event. We had achieved our goal of finishing the race within the allocated time limit and riding as a team plus getting all team members across the line.
Congratulations to everyone who volunteered their time to assist all riders – the Organising committee, motorcyclists on the mountain with food & gels, all the cheering volunteers on the mountain with water bottles, everyone at the finishing line to congratulate you and ensure that you were OK. A great event that will no doubt get bigger and better in years to come. The atmosphere was really good.”
Geoff started in A grade with his MACE – McDonagh Blake team, but it wasn’t his day and he had to hand in his number early – we all know what that feels like. Undoubtedly he’ll have plenty of future opportunities in this event.
So congratulations to John, Col, Phil, and PC, and commiserations to Geoff. You’ve all done yourselves proud!