Rudy Porter (InForm TMX Make) has won the 60th edition of the 2021 NRS David Reid Homes Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic.
Porter went clear from the breakaway to cross the finish in Vivian Street solo, 25 seconds ahead of Sam Hill (Team Nero Continental) and Ryan Cavanagh (St George Continental).
Ryan Schilt (Cycle House Racing) led home the peloton another 30 seconds behind.
After taking silver in the U23 Men’s Road Race National Championships, it was Porter’s first NRS win and marks an extraordinary comeback since fracturing his sternum and four vertebrae late last year.
“It’s an absolute honour to take out this wonderful race,” Porter said. “There’s so many quality riders; it’s the hardest one-day race in Australia. It’s my first NRS win as well, and I don’t think I can win a better race than today.”
One hundred and thirty-six riders rolled out from Grafton town centre with 228 tough kilometres before them, including the 17km climb of Gibraltar Range.
It took 20km for the first real move of the day to form, when Rhys Robotham (Oliver’s Real Food Racing) and Iven Bennett (Nero Continental) broke clear.
The peloton kept the duo on a tight leash, only allowing them a slender margin of one minute as they went through the sprint point in Jackadgery at the 47km mark.
As the race approached the day’s main climbing challenge, veteran Peter Milostic (Penrith CC) bridged across to make it a break of three. The trio’s advantage rose to three minutes by the time they reached the foot of the Range.
Marcus Culey (Team UKYO) also attempted to bridge across, but became caught in no-man’s-land and fell back into the bunch halfway up the climb.
Under the impetus of Team BridgeLane and InForm TMX Make, the peloton steadily closed the distance to the leaders. Even as the break survived to take the KOM points (Robotham took the honours), commissaires were pulling out the cars in between to prepare for gruppo compacto.
The catch was indeed made over the top of the climb, which prompted the predictable counterattack. A new—and more threatening—group of five broke clear. Those present were Rudy Porter (InForm TMX Make), Drew Morey (Team BridgeLane), Sam Hill (Nero Continental), Kane Richards (Meiyo CCN Pro Cycling) and Ryan Cavanagh (St George Continental).
By the time they reached the feed zone at Mount Mitchell, the new breakaway had opened a gap of two minutes. Having missed the move, Oliver’s Real Food Racing and ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast took responsibility for the chase, but the breakaway held steady, working smoothly in the slight headwinds to double their lead to four minutes through the next feed zone at Glen Innes.
Although the gap began to narrow, they maintained nearly a minute’s advantage at the final categorised climb at Wire Gully, with a little over 20km remaining.
Sensing a chance at victory, Porter attacked along the flat at Elsmore Road, and no one was able to follow. His lead grew to over 20 seconds and held steady, meaning that as he turned onto Vivian Street and saw the finishing arch, Porter was able to raise his arms aloft and add his own chapter to one of Australia’s most storied races.
“I had good legs coming into the finish,” Porter said. “I thought I could catch them off-guard a little bit; I was on the front about 3km before the [uncategorised] climb. I put down a little bit of pressure and before I knew it, a gap opened up a little bit and I thought, ‘it’s go time.’”
“A few guys were getting pretty tired and starting to sit on, so I was like, ‘it’s now or never.’ I just had to get to the bottom of the climb with a decent gap and ride my own tempo up the climb,” Porter said.
“I had my DS, Nathan Elliot, a previous winner, in my ear telling me to give it my all. Head down, churning that gear ... it didn’t hit me until a kilometre to go that I had it,” he said.
It was the perfect result for the Victorian-based InForm TMX Make team, which came into the race with multiple paths to victory.
“Today we went in with, ‘everyone can win’, and I think that’s the great thing about the team. We’re such a strong group of guys that want to work together,” Porter said.
“Me getting up the road takes a lot of pressure off them back in the bunch. I’d have backed them in myself if I did get caught," Porter said.
Sam Hill and Cavanagh held on to sprint for second and third respectively, while Morey and Richards were caught by the peloton, led by Schilt and Ben Hill (Team BridgeLane).
According to runner-up Sam Hill, Porter was unstoppable from the breakaway.
“The thing is, Rudy was just stronger. He was a deserving winner,” Hill said. “Ryan and I were chopping off behind, and he put time into us on the hill, and he put time into us on the descent, so there’s not a lot you can do about that. I’m really happy with second, and content.”