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Grafton Inverell ‘95

By Katherine Stannard (with apologies to Banjo Patterson and Clancy of the Overflow)

I found this when I was cleaning out the cupboard the other day – while it is a race report from another time and another place it could be describing the twists and turns of almost any race. I thought you might enjoy it.

First, a little bit of background; the Grafton Inverell is a single day, graded, 240km race from Grafton, at sea level in northern New South Wales, up over the Gibraltar range (a winding climb of some 18km) to Inverell, some 600m above sea level. The year that Steve and I did the race Phil Anderson (aka Skippy) was invited to be the race starter. We were racing for our Northern Suburbs Club who were sponsored by the Clancy’s supermarket chain. The rest, as they say, is history….

As we marshalled on the start line

in the early morning light

There were twenty Clancy’s riders, maybe more

And as “Skippy” gave the signal

we were eager for the fight

And the ride to Inverell stretched out before

In the races early stages

a few hopefuls slipped away

To try and beat the bunch onto the climb

But the peloton was lazy

for the race would take all day

And the break was bound to tire before the line

So we pushed on through the foothills

over plick-a-planks and mud

Towards the feared and famed Gibraltar range

Then the race was on in earnest

there was lactic in our blood

And the mood within the bunch began to change

Around the first of many hairpins

the pressure seemed to rise

As the climbers made their move into the fore

Whilst with all their muscles burning

and stars spinning in their eyes

The “sprinters” looked around for the back door

The bunch was strung out thinly

as we rose into the mist

And the climbers pushed a pace that was insane

But the break was still not sighted

‘round the hairpins ugly twist

And the mist began to turn to icy rain

As the KOM drew nearer

our lungs screamed out for air

But the climbers had no mercy on their mind

They were focused on the mountain

and the leaders up ahead

And not upon the gasping bunch behind

As the final rise was sighted

‘round the final hairpin bend

The bunches hopes were raised of hanging on

But the gaps began to open

as the climbers kicked again

And split apart the shattered peloton

Now once up on the tablelands

the icy rain closed in

As the stragglers, desperate, chased the speeding pack

And whilst the way was flatter

we could not afford to spin

For the finish still lay five hours down the track

Once past the feeding station

the chasing pace picked up

News of the leading group had been obtained

Five riders working smoothly

and two from in our club

Somehow the bunch’s speed must be restrained!

It was then the Clancy’s riders

moved bravely to the front

To stop the chasing pack from working well

They must hold back the momentum

and turn them from the hunt

To ensure our boys a place in Inverell

As we sped on through Glen Innes

past the waving, cheering crowd

The break still had five minutes on the bunch

Then we knew our boys would make

that they would do us proud

There would be some Clancy’s colours at the crunch

The bunch had been disheartened

by the distance of the break

And two hundred K’s had surely took their toll

But as the line grew nearer

tired bodies lost their ache

And each rider strained toward the final goal

Now sweeping round the corner

the finish line in sight

The riders swapping, shifting for a “sit”

Now someone jumped too early

now someone down the right

The bunch was snaking, sprinting, “THIS IS IT”

In a last almighty effort

riders hurtle to the line

In a weaving, swearing, sweating, swerving pack

And somehow, someone gets it

comes over just in time

Following a lead out from the back

At last the ride is over

and we eager, gather ‘round

To hear about our riders in the break

To hear of their adventure

and how the finish found

Third and second give the local boys a shake

At last the ride is over

‘though the stragglers still roll in

Each with their lonely tale of pain to tell

And each will long remember

the day they made it “in”

The day they reached the finish of the Grafton Inverell

Needless to stay Steve was in the break, and also needless to say, got fifth in a five up sprint!