Bentley Niquet-Olden wins Grafton to Inverell after flawless team performance

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CCACHE x Par Küp have continued their winning ways, riding a tactically perfect race to set up Bentley Niquet-Olden for victory in the Grafton to Inverell today.

Niquet-Olden, 25, sprinted from a reduced front group after teammate Ryan Schilt had spent much of the day in the early breakaway.

The 63rd edition of the Squadron Energy Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic saw CCACHE x Par Küp start with a powerful eight-man squad that included AusCycling National Road Series leader Graeme Frislie, fresh off his win at the Tour de Brisbane.

Nevertheless, many would be forgiven for looking at Team BridgeLane as the team to beat, given they had won the past two editions with Zac Marriage and Drew Morey.

Bentley Niquet-Olden wins the 2024 Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic for CCACHE x Par Küp
Photo: Auriol Carruthers

Forty-seven starters rolled out of Grafton early on Saturday morning, with 228 kilometres and plenty of climbing – including the 16-kilometre ascent of Gibraltar Range – separating them from Inverell. Conditions were idyllic, with sunny skies and an easterly wind pushing the peloton to their goal.

After 40km of racing, a three-rider breakaway moved clear and gained a substantial 10-minute advantage by the foot of Gibraltar. Those riders were Ryan Schilt (CCACHE x Par Küp), Brendon Green (Cycling Development Foundation) and Tynan Shannon.

Behind, in the ever-reducing peloton, the pressure was on Team BridgeLane and St George Continental to chase, while Schilt’s teammates enjoyed a backseat ride.

While the early breakaway rarely survives in the Grafton, the enormous time gap today turned the odds ever so much in its favour. After dropping Green, Schilt and Shannon pressed on over the final climb of Wire Gully with 20km remaining and a dream of reaching Inverell first.

However, the escapees were eventually reeled in – first Shannon, then Schilt with just 5 kilometres remaining, setting up a bunch finish on Vivian Street.

‘Bunch’ may have been a generous label, as fewer than 20 riders were left in contention – at least six of them with a CCACHE jersey on their backs.

With Schilt caught, CCACHE x Par Küp set to leading out their sprinter: ordinarily, that would have been Frislie, but the NRS leader gave the nod to Niquet-Olden to go for victory. Impressively, after nearly 200km in the breakaway, Schilt still gave his teammates one last turn on the downhill run into Inverell.

Alastair Christie-Johnston brought his teammate on the finish straight and, when Niquet-Olden kicked, he went clear by several bike lengths, leaving plenty of time to raise his arms in celebration.

Bentley Niquet-Olden wins the 2024 Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic for CCACHE x Par Küp
Photo: Auriol Carruthers

“It’s always an amazing feeling when the team does everything right and you get to put your hands in the air at the end of the day,” Niquet-Olden said.

“We had everything covered, really: one up the road early, and BridgeLane and St George under pressure. I was happy to make it over [Gibraltar] with the main group. The legs came good, I got over the last climb, and the boys got around me.

“We wanted to get around Graeme [Frislie], but he said to me at the last climb, he wasn’t feeling so good. We’ve raced together a fair bit, so we got to the front and got organised,” he said. “I was probably Plan B or C.”

Just over a month since his first UCI-level stage win at the Tour de Taiwan, the Victorian has now etched his name alongside the likes of David McKenzie, Jamie Drew and Alan Grindal as a winner of this legendary Australian race.

“I can’t believe it,” Niquet-Olden said. “The first year I was dropped, in the car, and I thought I’d never come back to this race.

“I love the NRS and what it means, the grassroots level. Winning this race, it really cements you in folklore, and I’m happy to put my name on the honour roll along some of the greats.”

Ben Carman was next best in the sprint, rewarding the efforts of his St George Continental Team, while Oli Stenning took a fine podium place for Blackshaw Racing.

The next round of the AusCycling National Road Series will be the Tour of Gippsland.

Results – 63rd Squadron Energy Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic

  1. Bentley NIQUET-OLDEN (CPU) 5h54:51
  2. Ben CARMAN (SGC) +0
  3. Oli STENNING (BRE) +0
  4. William HEFFERNAN (CPU) +0
  5. Hugh SESSINI (RCT) +0
  6. Louis PERRIMAN +0
  7. Alastair CHRISTIE-JOHNSTON (CPU) +0
  8. Matthew MAY (CDF) +0
  9. Ronan TEESE +0
  10. Ben METCALFE (BLN) +0

Click for full results


Feature photo: Bear Liange and Mat Gilfedder

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