MATTER OF MILLIMETRES: Elliott strikes to win Cycle Classic
UPDATE, 2.30pm: Bennelong Swiss Wellness team rider Nathan Elliott has gotten up for his first Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic crown in a thrilling finish to the annual event.
Despite breaking away to a two-man front group with InformMAKE rider Raphael Freienstein for the final 25km of racing, Elliott had to dig deep in the final stages to hold off an ever-advancing main peloton.
The peloton chewed up the pair's advantage on the descent to Inverell, closing a five minute gap into merely ten seconds as the finish line came into view.
But it was Elliott and Freienstein who held on, with the former making a last ditch lunge on the finish line to win the 228km classic in a provisional time of 6:44:16.
Australian Cycling Academy's Cameron Scott managed to edge out the rest of the peloton to finish third, four seconds behind Elliott.
It was a proud moment for Elliott, who has finished on the Grafton to Inverell podium twice before.
Gold Coast Cycle Club's Dane Murray took out the Fencing North West B Division, with Ben Manson and Tim Hoy rounding out the podium.
EARLIER: The riders in the 58th annual David Reid Homes Grafton to Inverell have passed the halfway stage in the gruelling 228km trek across the Gibraltar Range as conditions begin to take a toll on the strong field.
Record numbers in all four divisions, including a 30-strong Grafton to Inverell des Femmes (female) division, took off from the Prince Street start line in brisk conditions.
While their were a couple of early casualties at the bottom of the range, most riders got off to a strong start with the Cattle Creek Station climb proving the first challenge.
In the A Division, which acts as the first event of the 2018 Cycling Australia National Road Series, a lead group of about 30 riders was established during the Gibraltar Range climb, with race favourite Bennelong Swisswellbeing's Nathan Elliott in the middle of it.
The breakaway group soon pushed out to a six minute lead from the peloton but was eventually dragged back in towards the top of the climb.
Elliott then pushed forward again with a group of three other riders including Jesse Featonby of Drapac EF Cycling, Victoria's Raphael Freienstein and St George Continental's TImothy Cameron on the descent into Glen Innes.
With riders pulling up at the main race feed station at the Glen Innes Correctional Facility, the small breakaway group extended their lead to over a minute, while most of the peloton caught back up to the lead chasing group.
It is reportedly blowing a gale at the top of the Gibraltar Range, with the weather conditions expected to play a factor.
At this stage, the cyclists are on target to finish beyond the six hour mark, with Neil van de Ploeg's race record time of 5.45 minutes from last year likely to still stand after today.
More updates when information is available.