Oliver’s Racing young guns Nick White and Ryan Thomas have finished in 10th and 13threspectively in Australia’s toughest one day race: The Grafton to Inverell. The 228km classic opened the 2017 National Road Series, with Isowhey-SwissWellness rider Neil van der Ploeg taking line honors in race record time of 5hrs 46 mins after a late breakaway of 9 riders escaped a heavily reduced peloton in the late stages of the race.
A 120 rider peloton set off from Grafton under sunny skies on Saturday. With the prospect of an increasing tailwind, the race record was always going to be in danger with a number of breakaway attempts early keeping the average speed high to the bottom of the 17km Gibraltar Range climb, which came after 80kms.
A selection of around 30 riders formed on the climb, with Oliver’s two youngest team members White and Inverell local Thomas joining the move which was never threatened to be caught again.
With a number of teams with a numerical advantage, a highly motivated Thomas tried several attacks to split a small group away from the others. However, he began to pay the price for this in the final 30kms. A group of 9 riders escaped and fought out the victory, while 19-year-old White, led the bunch home in an impressive sprint despite suffering on several occasions on his first attempt of the brutal course.
Nick White: “Super happy to come away with a top 10 in my first Grafton. It was definitely the hardest 230km I have ever done! Super strong ride as well by team mate Ryan Thomas. He really did all he could to win the bike race. Now looking forward to heading to Europe racing for a month.”
Ryan Thomas: “I think we did the best we could in that situation, I just want to say a massive thanks to everyone in Inverell. I think everyone involved does a great job to keep this race going. Thank you to everyone and thank you to the team who supported me.”
Sam Layzell, Team manager: “We lost any real chance of winning the race having only 2 riders in the lead group after the climb. So the fact we didn’t get another rider in there is disappointing from an overall team perspective. But the way our two youngest riders performed on the day was very encouraging. Especially given the distance and the fact it was [Nick] Whiteys first go at the race. For Ryan [Thomas] I know he was motivated, and has trained so hard for this. But there will be next year for him. Plus, plenty more races this year.”