FOR the second successive year, Budget Forklifts has provided the premier rider in Australia’s toughest one-day road race after Jack Anderson outsprinted St George rider Ben Johnson to win the 53rd Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic in 6hrs 38mins 7secs.
Nathan Elliott (African Wildlife Safaris) was third, edging out Euride Racing’s Harry Carpenter by the narrowest of margins, 1min 39secs behind Anderson.
Anderson,who finished second in the recent Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic, regards the Grafton to Inverell as the nation’s hardest race, and was humbled to be the first recipient of the Jack Griffin Memorial Shield.
The shield was presented by the CEO of Cycling NSW Phil Ayres in the company of Jack Griffin’s widow, Joy Griffin.
“It’s going to take a little while to sink in to be honest,” Anderson said after his win.
“At the moment I’m just tired.
“Obviously it’s the last race of the season so I’m a bit relieved I can have a few easy weeks now.”
Anderson joins teammate, and 2012 winner Peter Herzig, on the Jack Griffin Memorial Shield.
“If you’re familiar with Australian cycling you know that this is arguably the toughest one-day race in the country,” Anderson said.
“For me, it’s definitely the hardest – I’ve done it a couple of times now and it was certainly much more difficult than I expected.
“And to join 50 or so other names on the shield is very humbling and overwhelming,” he said.
Budget Forklifts controlled the race from the outset, pacing the breaks and making sure their riders were never too far away from the front.
Despite several breakaways gaining sizeable time gaps throughout the day, Anderson bided his time before joining an attack in the latter half of the race to secure victory.
“I was confident I could take it in the sprint,” the Budget Forklifts rider added.
“Ben’s a class rider but he’s been out of the sport for a few years.
“I basically sprint the same after 5km as I do after 230km, so I knew if I could get to the finish I’d have a good chance of outsprinting him.
“It was fantastic to have him with me – we were the two strongest out there so when he came with me I thought it was a good move.
“Thankfully, I had enough legs to finish it off.”
Entered as an individual, Johnson rode valiantly and pushed Anderson to the very end, but couldn’t quite pip the 26-year-old in the final push.
“If I’d known I was going to get second at the start of the day I would have taken that,” Johnson admitted.
“It’s a bit disappointing – it is such a big race and to win it would have been fantastic, but Jack was really strong and we worked well together at the finish.
“It’s my first big race where I’ve been reasonably fit for a long time, so I’m really happy with the way it went.”
Saturday’s 53rd Grafton to Inverell Cycling Classic was the final event in the men’s Subaru National Road Series for 2013.
Victorian Jack Haig (Huon-Genesys) did not compete in the event but secured the individual honours for the 2013 series ahead of teammate Nathan Earle while Anderson will round out the overall series
In the Subaru National Road Series competition, Budget Forklifts took top honours from Euride Racing and African Wildlife Safaris.
Herzig, who finished sixth this year, was presented with an inscribed paver which he duly laid in the Grafton to Inverell Winners’ Walk.
A Grade King of Mountain was taken out by Steven Waite of African Wildlife and Sprint King was Jordan Davies of St.George.
B Grade will be remembered for the domination of the Inverell brothers Paul and Dan Wilks.
Paul, who won B Grade in 2010 and recently moved to Mudgee, rode away from a four-strong bunch on the final climb and rode into Otho Street alone to record a time of 7:07:56.
Brother Dan outlasted 1991 Classic winner Steve Fairless to take second.
The Grafton Club is rejoicing, with clubmates Matthew White and Howard Avery fighting out line honours in C Grade, with White proving a little too strong to take victory in 7:09:38
Tim Curry was third.