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What does it take to be at the pointy end of this years Grafton to Inverell

As promised, I have finally had time to sit down and write something up about the numbers from

Grafton. This race is often regarded as Australia’s hardest one-day event. Given it was a record time

(beating the previous record by a big margin), it was a seriously tough day in the saddle.


Including the neutral zone the race is massive. It was 228.5 km from gun to finish, ridden at a

freakish 38.9 km/h. It included 3327 m of elevation gain and only 2698 m of elevation loss (so it

finished a massive 629m higher than it started). This sort of pace for the ride given the elevation

shows how strong the national road series (NRS) is these days. This sort of ride would not be out of

place at UCI level. Our team leader Chris Miller managed to finish just outside the top 20 (24 th ),

safely in the second bunch who were within touching distance (27 seconds) of the front group who

got away within the last 50 km.

Our goal for Chris was to be at the front in a position to get a top 10 at the end of the race, and we

are pretty stoked to have very nearly achieved that goal. In a race like this, with opponents of this

quality it will always take Chris a lot of luck to get a result, but he was there and in with a sniff.

I’ll start by comparing it to last year. 2016 was a different race - the break away got away on one of

the earlier climbs (Cattle Creek at about 25 km).

The peloton let them go, expecting to catch them again. Despite a fast climb and some chasing over the top of the climb there was too much firepower from the big teams in the break. With no reason to chase for a lot of teams, the break stayed away.

Chris finished in a similar position (28 th ) overall, but in this case he was in the third bunch over the

line, around 10 minutes down on the winners. Our goal was smaller for Chris last year too, it was

simply to be in the front group of the main peloton up the climb which he achieved after a seriously

deep effort.

COMPARING 2016 TO 2017

As you can see, Chris was fitter this year, and was much more prepared for the race. His average and

normalised power were considerably higher this year, but his HR was well down on last years race.

This is a good sign of a fitness change, especially for a ride of this length. This was reflected in the

result, with Chris being a lot closer to the front and in a position to get in moves towards the end of

the race.

From here, we’ll break the ride up into 3 parts – Start to base of the climb, the climb, and the top of

climb to the finish.


This year, with constant attacking and all the teams wary of a repeat of last year, no breakaway got

away. Despite the ~1000 m of climbing in these first 70 km, the bunch got to the climb in just over an

hour and a half, at a blistering 42 km/h. Chris’ average watts were 216W (273NP). Last year was just

over 1h:45m with an average power of 181W (243NP), indicating how much harder the whole first

part of the race was this year.

The start of last year’s race was similarly fierce, until the break of the day was established around 40

minutes in. The next hour or so to the climb, Chris had a cruisy 150 W roll to the base (including a

nature break).


Given how hard the run in to the climb was, it’s unsurprising that it was actually slower for Chris

than last year. Chris’ power was more intermittent this year, reflecting the flurry of attacks attacks

that were happening on the climb as the big players tried to force a selection. Jesse Coyle, another

Nero Coaching rider for Mobius Future Racing proved that heavier guys (~75 kg) can mix it with the

whippets, having his name called out over the radio as being responsible for drilling it off the front of

the main field at one point!

We had initially discussed easing up on the climb at the top if Chris thought it was appropriate, and

just making his way through the cars to save energy for the full gas ‘reset’ that inevitably happens

after the climb. This is exactly what Chris did, with the last 8 minutes of the climb being ridden at

around 290 W. He crested the climb well and truly in the cars and made his way back through easily.

Goal achieved again this year.

At the top of the climb when Chris got back on there were only around 20 guys in the front group, so he was in a very good position without having to go too deep to get there. Those 20 guys included most of the real contenders for the win, so we were stoked to hear that Chris had made it into the selection.


2016 - 3hr 28 min, 182 W (228 NP) 147 bpm

2017 - 3hr 20min, 185 W (240NP) 137 bpm

It’s pretty obvious from the HR here that there was a big difference in how hard Chris found this year

compared to last year, despite the watts being higher and the pace quicker. Over the top of the

climb last year, Chris was struggling as he went very deep on the climb itself. He was then unable to

really do anything over the top of the climb but hang on for dear life. This year, Chris was able to go

with moves and not just be a passenger in the group. Unfortunately, Chris missed the winning move

that went just outside town, but finished strongly in the bunch 27s behind.


Interestingly, the HR vs Power graph showed a definite drift last year from the start to the finish of

the race (i.e. his HR was higher for the same watts towards the end). This was was largely absent this

year. For me, this demonstrates the value of all the Zone 2 work Chris has done, in that he can now

get to the end of a race like this and still feel ok.

Despite Chris’s threshold being improved, this year 24% of the race was above threshold, compared

to 19% last year (with an additional 10 minutes in each of his anaerobic and VO2 zones). This is

unsurprising, given the more attacking nature of this year’s edition, along with Chris’s ability to

respond to attacks throughout the race.

After doing a post-race analysis last year, we identified some key areas that would improve Chris’s

chance at this year’s race.

1. Be in a better position to have an active role in the race over the top of the climb.

2. Have a better endurance base (demonstrated by lower HR drift) in order to help with the above.

Both myself and Chris are happy that we managed to achieve that this year. Chris was able to finish

in the front main bunch, a mere 27 seconds off the winner.

This leads us into the obvious question: where to next? What can we take out of this to work on for

next year? The first could be to increase Chris’s threshold - with a higher threshold he could go with

more attacks and be even fresher after the climb. The threshold gains for Chris are unfortunately

very small now (given his level that isn’t too surprising).

So what else? A major thing we can work is tactics. Given Chris’s relatively low HR and power over

the top of the climb, he could probably have afforded be more aggressive and go with a couple more

attacks (but that’s bike racing – he could just have easily got lucky this year and picked the winning


The last thing I want to work on is his ability to do high intensity efforts at the end of a long ride like

this. He still found it hard at the end to go much above threshold. Now he has the endurance, it will

be time to do long hard rides with some VO2 style efforts (Chris’ favourite) at the end of it. This is

where I think he’ll be able to get some gains.


I am super happy with Chris and the entire team’s efforts. We rode to our plan well, it was just a

little unfortunate that we had 2 of our other climbers just behind the groups that got back into the

main bunch - but that’s bike racing. There’s only a little over 11 months till next year’s race, so time

to get training!

If you want to know more about how to get the most out of your training, don’t hesitate to contact

Be sure to check out our VLOG episode from the day, and remember all our Team Edition riders are riding the same cuts and fabrics available to you in our DECCA Collection



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