Patrick Lane (Avanti Isowhey Sport) has made history at the 56th edition of the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, finishing the gruelling 228 kilometre epic in less than six hours to set a new race record.
On a stunning autumn day, almost 300 competitors across three divisions tackled the race reputed to be Australia’s toughest one-day ride. But it came down to just two, Lane outsprinting training partner Nathan Elliott (Kenyan Riders Downunder) to cross the Inverell finish-line with arms aloft. Lane’s team-mate Patrick Shaw placed third to round out Avanti Isowhey Sport’s presence on the podium, in the first men’s race of the 2016 Subaru National Road Series.
“I am over the moon to come away with that one,” said a jubilant Lane, who came third at the Australian Road National Championships earlier this year. “To get the record is also great, but I would have been equally happy to win the slowest Classic – just winning is incredible!”
The race was animated from the start-gun, with an 11-rider breakaway establishing a lead on the road out of Grafton. By the time the attack group reached the base of the infamous Gibraltar Range, they enjoyed a nine-minute time gap from the chasing peloton.
“We did not climb too hard, because we had such a big lead,” Lane admitted. “Once we were over the top the group slowly got smaller and smaller. We started attacking each other with 80 kilometres to go, and the group would thin every time someone made a move. This race is so long, hot and tough, guys just start to run out of legs.”
Lane attacked in the final stanza, taking Elliott with him, and the two tussled several times on the last climb before entering the final straight neck-and-neck.
“I was actually pretty confident I could get Pat in the sprint, but I went to step out and had nothing,” explained second-placed Elliott, who was forced to change bike mid-race after breaking his derailleur. “I am really disappointed right now, but am sure later on second will feel better.”
Lane’s finish, in a time of 5 hours, 57 minutes and 55 seconds, broke the record formerly held by Paul Curran. The British rider won the 1985 Grafton to Inverell in just over six hours, before going on to win gold at the Commonwealth Games Road Race the following year. Lane’s record-breaking victory was made all the sweeter by being alongside a close friend for the entire day.
“Nathan did most of the work today, he was just awesome,” Lane continued. “I tried to go ahead but could not get rid of him. Nathan’s a good mate of mine – I train with him all the time – so to come into the finish together was just awesome.”
Lane’s team-mate Shaw was also active throughout the day, winning three of the four King of the Mountain climbs and two of the three sprints. His efforts earned him both the Jakazni King of the Mountain jersey and Nucleo Sprint King award, while Bradley Soden (Kenyan Riders Downunder) was the Jorgensen Builders Youngest Rider.
In the Fencing North West B Grade division, Daniel Alcock from Coffs Harbour finished 20 seconds ahead of Paul Wilks and Calem Wilcox to win the race. Grafton local Jye Reardon took out the Inverell RSM C Grade, from Ashley Stapley and Joe Stokes.
The Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic is an iconic feature on the Australian racing calendar. Some of the nation’s best riders have found themselves on the podium over the years, with past place-getters including Simon Gerrans, Scott Sunderland and Dave McKenzie.