Less than a second behind the leader in one of the toughest Grafton to Inverell races in recent years, local rider Ryan Thomas was thrilled with his fifth place result on Saturday.
Battling cold, 45 km/hr headwinds after the punishing Gibraltar Range climb, he finished in six hours, 44 minutes, 16 seconds, just 0.04 seconds after Nathan Elliot in first place.
“I’m happy with that, considering how I was feeling at the start,” he said. Thomas had limited training last week due to an illness, but felt confident going in, saying that he usually raced well “on fresh legs”.
“That headwind makes it a very different race,” he said.
In the chasing group which caught up with the break-away in the last leg of the race, Thomas said he conserved his energy until the last sprint. He felt boosted by the local crowd cheering him on.
Fellow local A Grade rider Chris Hamilton was unable to finish after coming off his bike in a fall. He had a knee operation in Tamworth on Sunday and is recovering well.
Former local Andrew McCosker came in 76th place for the Phoenix Cycling Collective, just over 48 minutes behind the leaders.