Drew Morey (Team Bridgelane) has won the 2022 CWP Renewables Men’s NRS Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, beating his Melbourne training partner Mark O’Brien (InForm TMX MAKE) in a two-up sprint today.
Morey and O’Brien fought out a cagey duel after riding away from a breakaway group that formed after cresting the Gibraltar Range.
Last year’s runner-up Sam Hill (Nero Continental) earned another trip to the podium, finishing in third place after losing contact with the lead duo.
“It’s my biggest race win in Australia, for sure,” said Morey, who has UCI Asia Tour victories in Japan and Indonesia to his name.
The 25-year-old from Melbourne said that once Hill was dropped, he fancied his chances against O’Brien.
“It whittled down over time to just the three of us left at the end. I know him (O’Brien) very well. I train with him a lot,” Morey said.
“I was reasonably confident I had him covered in a sprint, but at the end of a really hard day, you never know. But we got the result, so I’m very happy with that.
“There’s great history in this race, so it’s awesome to get the win.”
The men’s National Road Series (NRS) peloton assembled by the banks of the Clarence River in Grafton for the 61st edition of the northern NSW classic.
Ahead were 228 kilometres of tough roads, including the notorious 16km climb of Gibraltar Range.
It was a cool autumn morning with thick fog in parts, but mercifully, it stayed dry.
After a few attackers tried their hand at the early breakaway, the race came back together on the Gibraltar Range thanks to the pace set by InForm TMX MAKE and Team Bridgelane, the two strongest teams on paper.
Jack Aitken (Hamilton CC) attacked out of the peloton to snag the KOM points, but he was brought back before the race entered its next phase.
With over 110km still to race, a threatening group of nine broke away. They established a small lead of 40 seconds and included representation from Team Bridgelane in Morey, two from InForm TMX MAKE in Elliott Schultz and Luke Burns, Nero Continental with Myles Stewart, and Joseph Cooper from Giant Racing Team.
However, there would yet be another reshuffling at the front. When the dust settled, what emerged was a breakaway group of seven riders whose lead grew and grew to over five minutes through the feed zone in Glenn Innes until it became clear that, like last year, the race would be decided among these attackers.
In that lead group were Morey and Rhys Robotham for Team Bridgelane, O’Brien and Schultz for InForm TMX MAKE, Sam Hill, Jack Aitken, Max Campbell (Tandem Co Pro Cycling), Will Moloney-Morton (Carnegie Caufield CC) and Oli Stenning (ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast).
Last year, Hill was unable to follow an incisive late attack by eventual winner Rudy Porter. This year, the climber from Nero Continental went on the front foot, attacking on the Wire Gully climb with 21km remaining.
Only Morey and O’Brien were able to follow Hill’s attack, and soon after, the latter was dropped, leaving him again with the disappointment of coming so close to finishing with the leaders.
With time up their sleeve to play cat-and-mouse, O’Brien led Morey into Vivian Street to sprint for victory. O’Brien launched his acceleration first, but Morey had enough in the legs to come past and clinch an iconic victory of Australian cycling.
Thanks to his performance in the breakaway, O’Brien secured the Boss Built KOM and Kennards Hire Sprint King classifications.
Hill drifted in for third place ahead of the remnants of the breakaway, while Penrith veteran Peter Milostic clipped away from the peloton to finish inside the top 10.
AusCycling will broadcast highlights from the 2022 CWP Renewables Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic on YouTube at 7:00pm AEST tonight.