Saturday saw leading Griffith cyclist, Peter Budd racing in the 225km Grafton to Inverell road race. The G2I is known as the toughest road race in Australia and Saturday’s edition showed the reason why this reputation came about.
Firstly, the race distance of 225 kilometres makes it tough. Secondly, the 3500 metres of climbing makes it tougher. Saturday’s version threw in cold temperatures along with 35-50kph headwinds. It was considered some of the worst race conditions for around 40 years by followers of the history of the race. Any rider who finished the Saturday edition of the race was truly deserving of the finishers medal presented to each rider after crossing the finish line. Budd last competed in this event in 1985 where he recorded a DNF. His goal in 2018 was simply to see the finish line. No easy task in the terrible conditions.
Racing in Division 3 along with 86 other riders including the 20 elite female riders Budd found himself in a break with 6 other riders after the first intermediate sprint at 47km into the race. Hoping to build a lead going into the 18km Gibralter Range climb the leaders worked well together.
The peloton behind however saw the danger in letting a large group escape and chased hard bringing the attack back as the base of the climb loomed ahead. Budd climbed with the peloton until around 4km into the one hour climb but the unrelenting pace saw him slowly lose contact. Budd got into a small group of riders and went over the top of the climb 4:30 minutes down on the leaders. Once over the top of the climb and with 140km still to race the strong headwinds started to hit hard.
The Budd group continued to pick up other dropped riders along the way until it was around 20 riders strong including 3 female riders who were all putting in super rides. Budd also had two former world masters champions for company for a part of the race in John Horsbourgh and Mick Patton.
The Grafton event requires team assistance and fellow BiciSport rider Melissa Budd was his team helper throughout the race. Melissa was on deck to hand up the feed bags (known as a musette) with drink and food inside at the 120km and 160km points in the race.
After 8 hours and 20 minutes Budd sprinted to the line to take second place in his group. Relief could be seen on every rider who crossed the line. After crossing the line when asked about the race Budd replied, “that was the hardest thing I have ever done on a bike. I have done a lot of big rides but that was super tough. Just so many unrelenting climbs and the headwind just smashing you in the face.”
Asked will he compete again next year, Budd tried to laugh, “ask me next week when I’m not so shattered. “