This Saturday marks the 55th running of the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic a race that has been running since 1961 firstly as a handicap then from 1979 onward as a mass start classic. While it may not be as old or as long as Australia’s other famous one day race the Melbourne to Warrnambool it certainly makes up for the those two factors with a demanding course that starts in Grafton at sea level and climbs the Gibraltar Range, crosses the Great Dividing Range and finishes in Inverell after 228km of racing.

The Grafton to Inverell is the final round of the 2015 Subaru National Road Series and while Avanti Racing Team rider Patrick Bevin has had the individual title wrapped up since the Tour of Tasmania the Teams Classification will go down to the wire with only one point separating current leaders Avanti Racing Team and Charter Mason Giant Racing Team after last weekend’s Melbourne to Warrnambool race.

New Zealand’s Patrick Bevin has already won the 2015 Subaru National Road Series title with 82 points won’t start this weekend, African Wildlife Safaris rider Michael Schweizer sits in second place on 51 points and can’t be overtaken for runner up while 2014 champion Joe Cooper (Avanti Racing Team) is currently third overall on 43 points.

Defending champion Sean Lake (African Wildlife Safaris) will pin number 1 on his jersey and attempt to be the first rider to win back to back titles.

The form is coming along really well. I had a really good run in Tasmania and I reckon I will be at a good peak for Grafton, I would absolutely love to win it back to back, that would be super special. It is such a tough and unpredictable race that the tactics will always make it hard, but going in with the best form I can I will give it my best shot. – Sean Lake

The Course

The Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic starts from Memorial Park in Grafton at 8am and covers 228km and 3,200 metres of climbing with four KOM’s including the 17km climb up the Gibratar Range, after the climb there is 140km to go as the race passes through Glenn Innes and then on to finish in Inverell. There are three intermediate sprints.

Grafton to Inverell race map and profile
Grafton to Inverell race map and profile (via cyclingprofiles.com.au)

Classic Races and Winners

The Grafton to Inverell cycle race started as a handicap race and continued that way until 1978, after that it was run as a mass start race similar to the European races. The first ever winner was Olympian Alan Grindal who started on scratch and won with a time of 7:39:11.

Warrnambool rider Jamie Drew is the only rider to have won the Grafton to Inverell twice, winning in 1997 and then again in 1999 before winning the Melbourne to Warrnambool a few weeks later, Drew also won the Warrnie again in 2002.

Mark Jamieson (Team Jayco-2XU) holds the race record of 6 hours and 21 seconds (38kph) set on his way to winning the 2011 race, Jamieson beat English rider and Commonwealth games gold medalist Paul Curran’s record set in 1985 by 28 seconds.

Team Budget Forklifts have won the race more than any other team over the last decade with Malcolm Rudolph winning in 2009, Peter Herzig winning in 2012 with team mate Michael Cupitt finishing second, and in 2013 Jack Anderson won again for Budget Forklifts.

The most dominant team performance ever in the race was in 1982 when the New Zealand Commonwealth games team finished 1-2-3 with Stephen Cox winning, Jack Swart second and Blair Stockwell third. Stephen Cox also won the KOM title.

The Grafton to Inverell race has been won 9 times out of the 54 editions so far by international riders, the most recent was 2005 by New Zealand’s Greg Henderson which was notable in being one of the toughest ever with a block headwind the whole race making it one of slowest editions of the race ever. Other international winners were 2003 Hector Morales (URU), 1994 Craig Saunders (NZL), 1989 Nathan Reiss (USA), 1988 Gianluca Pierobon (ITA), 1987 Atle Pedersen (NOR), 1985 Paul Curran (GBR), 1982 Stephen Cox (NZL) and 1971 Ross Bush (NZL).

2005 winner Greg Henderson
2005 winner Greg Henderson with second place Simon Clarke and third place Matthew Lloyd Photo ©: Ray Phillips

The Grafton to Inverell was a UCI International event in the years 1982, 1984, 1985 and 1987-1989 and International teams would use the race as preparation for the Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic and even as preparation for the Commonwealth Games.

List of winners of the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic

YearWinner (Team)Fastest Time
2015Sean Lake (African Wildlife Safaris)6:01:13
2014Sean Lake (African Wildlife Safaris)6:40:26
2013Jack Anderson (Budget Forklifts)6:38:07
2012Peter Herzig (Budget Forklifts)6:13:39
2011Mark Jamieson (Team Jayco-2XU)6:00:21
2010Nathan Earle (Genesys Wealth Advisers)6:44:34
2009Malcolm Rudolph (Budget Forklifts)6:26:50
2008David Pell (Savings & Loans)6:30:03
2007Cameron Hughes (Ord Minnett)6:51:11
2006Robert McLachlan (Drapac)6:06:53
2005Greg Henderson Health Net/Maxxis) (NZL)7:19:56
2004Peter McDonald (Caravello)6:41:53
2003Hector Morales (Hinchinbrook) (URU)7:03:00
2002Lee Godfrey6:44:58
2001David McKenzie6:22:40
2000Ben Day6:33:09
1999Jamie Drew6:26:45
1998Ben Brooks6:45:25
1997Jamie Drew6:35:04
1996Damian Forster6:54:19
1995Tim Christopher6:24:36
1994Craig Saunders (NZL)6:37:55
1993Stephen Drake6:32:30
1992Billy Shearsby7:00:43
1991Stephen Fairless6:59:43
1990Nigel Perry7:01:34
1989Nathan Reiss (USA)6:38:32
1988Gianluca Pierobon (ITA)6:39:23
1987Atle Pedersen (NOR)6:19:53
1986Andrew Logan6:37:27
1985Paul Curran (GBR)6:00:49
1984Michael Lynch6:44:52
1983Richard McCorkell6:32:14
1982Stephen Cox (NZL)6:24:35
1981Alan Gill7:24:37
1980Wayne Hammond6:47:05
1979Grant McVilly6:43:46
1978Ray Piper, (Michael Wilson)6:37:47
1977Robert Glindeman, (Gary Sutton)7:33:00
1976Remo Sansonetti, (Remo Sansonetti)7:19:34
1975Robert Hines, (Mike Glindeman)6:38:21
1974Bryan Ferris, (Terry Parkes)7:18:17
1973Vince Breen, (Alan Spokes)6:38:08
1972Kevin Brindle, (Lyn Cooper (NZL))6:51:34
1971Ross Bush (NZL), (John Trevorrow)7:03:33
1970Don Strahley, (John Trevorrow)7:37:08
1969Bruce Ryalls, (Bruce Ryall)6:44:44
1968Kevin Morgan, (Kevin Morgan)6:23:21
1967Don Wilson, (Don Wilson)6:53:24
1966Max Redman, (Timo Savimaki)6:57:20
1965Leon Cook, (Don Wilson)6:36:02
1964John Ferranda, (Vic Adams)7:04:50
1963Norm Burnell, (Jim Lloyd)7:23:23
1962Phil Chapman, (Jim Lloyd)7:19:47
1961Alan Grindal, (Alan Grindal)7:39:11

* Between 1961 and 1978 the race was a handicap format, the fastest time winner is in brackets beside the first over line winner.

Good to luck to all the National Road Series riders this weekend, you can follow the race on twitter using #G2I15 and then watch the action on the Cycling Australia YouTube channel.

TBL – The Bike Lane

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