Ayden Toovery placed third in the 2017 Grafton to Inverell, smashing the 2016 victor’s record.
Although Neil Van Der Ploeg won the whole event, and Matthew Ross just edged Toovey for silver, the leading threesome completed the race a full 12 minutes faster than last year’s competitors.
With records broken four times in the last seven years, it’s proof that the event grows stronger – and gets tougher – every year, with the winning time this year just five hours, 46 minutes, 26 seconds in one of the event’s closest ever finishes.
Van der Ploeg pulled clear with a group of around eight riders on the final Grindal-Griffin Hill climb that included team mate Lake, Lane, Ross and Toovey.
But the race already lay in splinters after leaving Glen Innes for the final 50 kilometres to the finish with a raft of attacks and counter attacks.
Earlier, Elliot, Leighton Cook and Toovey broke away but were reeled back in by the bunch before the top of the punishing Gibraltar range.
Sam Crome and Sean Trainor then attacked and were soon joined by Peter Milostic.
The trio established a maximum lead of three minutes over the next 30 kilometres but Elliot and locals Dylan Sunderland and Ryan Thomas emerged from the main bunch to bridge the gap and form a six-rider lead group.
The race then hit Glen Innes and was blown apart, with the 228 kilometre epic ending in a sprint finish.
Inverell’s Peter Sunderland, who called the race from Grafton, commented that the race has become a stronger competition year on year.
“The race record has been eclipsed four times in the last seven years. So, it is just getting faster and faster,” he said.
Local rider Dylan Sunderland, who is in the same team as Toovey and Jason Taylor, was disappointed he himself couldn’t secure the victory, but came away happy regardless.
“You have to walk away happy from the race having teammates Ayden Toovey and Josh Taylor,” he said.
“(It was) an outstanding race from them.
“All these young kids, their aim is to be professionals and race in Europe, and all these are set up to nurture that. To get the experience like this today, and hopefully, they can do it for a living if they are lucky enough.”
TOP FIVE: 1st Van der Ploeg, 5:46:26; 2nd Ross, +0; 3rd Toovey, +0; 4th Lane, +0; 5th Taylor, +0.