Recap: 58th Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic (Div 2)

RACE REPORT – by Ben Neppl

Representing the Dhuez Racing Team – Johnathan Millington, Ben Neppl, Grant Harmer and Dane Crawford

The boys rolled out for the 228km road race on Saturday 12th May. The forecasted 35km/h westerly winds had the peloton commence the race cautiously with most riders aiming to limit their time in the wind.

As planned, (and despite the gale) Dane & Grant (“Wilfred”) Harmer set the pace early and spent the first 30km chopping off and keeping the bunch in check. However, 3 risk takers went off the front at the 40km mark and established a 5 minute advantage on the peloton. In response, Ben Neppl set off on a solo pursuit of the early break and reached the base of the 18.8km Gibraltar climb alone. Ben set a nice tempo up the lower slopes of the climb and was eventually caught by a chasing group of 18 riders, including Johnathan.

This was the move that would see the breakaway establish for the rest of the race. Once at the top of the Gibraltar, the 3 lead riders had been caught and an 18 man group was formed with the dispersing peloton some 5 minutes in arrears.

The brutal head wind was relentless as the race continued and the breakaway group was whittled down to 10 by the time they reached Akward Gully at the 140km mark. At this point, a savage 40km/h crosswind ripped into the riders and caused another 3 to drop off the back. At this stage, team work was critical to keep the pace up in the unabating wind and maintain the 8-minute time gap which had formed.

Nearing 174km, the break were heading into a crucial point of the race – the climb at Waterlook summit. The final 500 meters of this climb hits ~8%, and if you lose contact with the bunch here you are in trouble as once over the summit there is an immediate long fast descent. Two more riders were despatched at this point and the remaining 5 man break (including Millington and Neppl) raced away down the slope.

This is where the tactical race began and both Johnathan and Ben maintained the pace and worked with the remaining 3 riders to ensure the group stayed away… but it was also time to start thinking about the finish.

The usual apprehension started to creep in as the 5 riders approached the finish. The course continued to undulate through to 218km and then in the final 10km, a 3km 3% uphill drag provided the opportunity for the DRT riders to throw down their challenge. This is the time when a true leader shines and it is exactly how team captain Johnathan reacted. Johno took control of the bunch and let loose with a flurry of attacks forcing the chase and allowing Ben to sit in and follow wheels. With 4km to go, Johno laid out one last-ditch attack only to be brought back by the chase with Ben still sitting in.

Tim Hoy (Gold Coast Cycling) counter attacked but 3 riders hold his wheel and Johnathan finally looses contact after driving the front for almost 12km.

3km to go, the group of 4 race into Inverell and there are one or two attempts to go but nothing sticks.

2km to go, tension is peaking, riders are edgy and Ben is sitting last wheel.

1km to go, the bunch approach the right hand turn into the finishing straight. The bunch fans out and Ben is sitting just off the back

500m, everyone is looking around nervously pace is dropping.

400m, there is a sudden gear change, Ben reacts and jumps into his sprint. Two riders are immediately dropped but Dane Murray (Gold Coast Cycling) remains on his hip

50m, Ben has half a bike length.

15m, Ben can see the line, striving hard, but the rider comes off his hip and rolls him on the line by a bike length.

Johno rides in for 5th (47secs behind).


Both boys are lost for words, ecstatic and slightly disappointed, mixed emotions.

Grant rolls in with a chasing group a few minutes down and has put in an amazing effort to get through after losing contact with the lead group over the Gibraltar.

Dane reluctantly retired 100km in but was waiting for both Johno and Ben at the finish.

An amazing effort by the Boys….Job done👍

“Seriously though, that was the most demanding conditions for a Grafton that I’ve ever done. It’s serious credit to the three first timers to take it on in those conditions.”

“At times we were down to 18km/h into that wind! It’s a credit to all that finished, they were the least favourable conditions I’ve ever raced in. Kudos to the boys”

“That’s was the toughest race I’ve ever done, due to the consistent head wind. But happy to help the 2 champs out early on and I’ll be back next year for sure”

“A admirable effort by both Johno and Ben, but seriously Grant had limited time to prepare for the race and to finish was an amazing effort”

#StrongerAsOne #DRT #tricolours

Division 2 Results:

  • Ben Neppl – 2nd
  • Johnathan Millington – 5th



Gallery of photos from 58th Grafton to Inverell (Div 2)

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