HAROLD Strahley is often regarded as the father of the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic.
His legend was recalled by Nationals senator for NSW John “Wacka” Williams, who made special mention of him in a parliamentary speech about the race in 2010.
“A bloke by the name of Harold Strahley was regarded as the father of the race, and his nephew, Don Strahley ... went on to win the 1970 Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic,” Senator William said.
“In fact, he and Leon Cook, who won the race in 1965, are the only two locals to take line honours over the past 49 years.”
Senator Williams took time from his busy schedule to talk about the cycle classic, begun in 1960.
The race, conceived by the late Strahley, is held over 228 kilometres, some of which was still gravel road in the early 1960s.
It remains the toughest, single-stage race in Australia.
About 30 riders took part in the 1961 inaugural race, won by Olympian Alan Grindal and were welcomed by a crowd of 6000 in Otho Street, Inverell. The route climbs the Great Dividing Range and the Gibraltar Range to the summit and descends through Glen Innes to Inverell.
Ian “Blue” Manton was a local rider who took part in 24 races, starting in the 1960s. He finished in sixth place in 1973. “Blue” came out of semi-retirement to ride the 50th Classic in 2010.
The infamous Wire Gully climb, 20 kilometres from the finish of Inverell, was synonymous with “Blue” as motorists were accustomed to the sight of him pedalling from Inverell to the top of Wire Gully each afternoon.
“Blue” died in 2016 after a long battle with cancer.
The Ian “Blue” Manton Encouragement Award is now an annual award that will be presented to the Northern NSW Division rider (Port Macquarie and north) whose best effort epitomises the qualities displayed by “Blue” in his 24 Grafton to Inverells.
There have been other legends of the race. In 1977, Don Nutley rode with an artificial limb.
British cyclist Paul Curran won the race in 1985 with a new record, six hours and 49 seconds.
This year, another Inverell resident Dylan Sunderland is a strong contender to take top honours. More information at graftontoinverell.com.au