Dylan Sunderland says his mind was willing but his body was not, as his quest to win his home race, the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, fell agonising short.
On Saturday the 23-year-old lost out in a sprint finish to Bathurt's Will Hodges - his second placing his best result in a race he has contested four times and covets winning. (His previous best result was eighth.)
The result was good enough, however, to move Sunderland to the top of the National Road Series standings after three events. He also finished second in the Tour de Brisbane.
He rode with the front group for the entire race - a 228-kilometre torture test featuring 3382 metres of climbs - and finished in just over six hours and 27 minutes. Hodges finished several metres in front of him, and greeted his triumph with arms-spread rapture.
Sunderland's teammate, Nicholas White, finished third - 25 second behind the top two. Two seconds behind White was a group of five riders.
Sunderland said: "I gave myself every chance in that last sprint, but I knew with 20 kilometres to go I wasn't too flash. But I had to do everything I could ... I knew he was a quick finisher, so it was always gonna be a tough ask."
"I was feeling good virtually the whole way," he added. "I spent the whole day in the front group, so [I] rode the race from the front. But, unfortunately, just came up a little short."
He he had hoped to break away from the lead riders, but "my mind was telling me one thing and my legs were telling me another thing".
Team BridgeLane, whom Sunderland rides for, won the team title - finishing one second ahead of Hodge's Oliver's Real Food Racing.
It has been 40 years since an Inverell rider last won the race, while 22-year-old Hodges became the first NSW rider to win the race since 2004.
Sunderland, who contested his first Tour Down Under this year, next heads to Japan and then to Europe for a "few tours and then back to the US".
He said his expectations were "definitely" higher than they were at this time last year when he travelled to Europe.
"[I'll] definitely try and get a few wins while I'm there, which would be ideal," he said.
In the division two race, Inverell's Callum Dolby and Zak Sunderland, Dylan's brother, finished fourth and fifth while Tamworth's Fraser Ashford finished ninth. Sydney's Andrew Finlayson won, followed by Matthew Sunde (Murwillumbah) and Thomas Fish (Sydney).
In division three, Tamworth's Matthew Sadleir came fifth, and was named the division's most attacking rider. Brendan Howard, of Sydney, won, followed by Jason Simmonds (Silver Sovereigns) and Simon Hickey (Sydney).
Tamworth's Matthew Sadleir came fifth in division three. The 47-year-old was named the division's most attacking rider. He competed in his third Grafton to Inverell, after contesting his first 27 years earlier and his second last year.
The women's race was won by Megan Scott of Sydney, with Katie Banerjee (Sydney) and Kate Perry (Melbourne) second and third. The best-placed New England rider was Tamworth's Simone Church in 12th place. She finished more than 54 minutes behind Scott.
Fellow Tamworth rider Pip Ash, competing in her first Grafton to Inverell, came 14th.