Photos by Kathy Watt

The Grafton to Inverell was on last Saturday. The winner, Neil van der Ploeg of the IsoWhey-Swiss Wellness team took the win in record time and spoke to RIDE shortly after crossing the line.

Here are some photos by Kathy Watt and an interview with the winner of the men’s race.

The big news item from the 223km event was the comeback of Keagan Girdlestone who finished 55th. It struck a chord with van der Ploeg whose eldest brother, Daniel, also suffered a brain injury because of a cycling accident…

Interview – Neil van der Ploeg after his win Grafton

“The Grafton to Inverell is a big one-day race. At the start, there’s a lot of excitement in the air, a lot of nervous anticipation, just because of the prestige and the class of the event – and also just because of the fact that it’s just so brutal.

“It goes over the Gibraltar Range. I don’t know exactly how long it takes but it’s a huge climb. And the rest of the day is actually very hilly also…

“One of the beauties of it, I suppose, is that it’s such a hard course: 223 kilometres long and something like 3,500 metres of climbing so it’s an epic day out. It’s a pretty special race.”



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“I’ve had a bit of a glance [at my power data] but I haven’t had a full analysis of if yet. But the report is that it was a very hard day.

“You get a stress score from your power device if you know what your threshold is – most people would probably be familiar with that. But the score basically tells you how hard the day is.

“Going for an hour as hard as you possibly can, gets you 100. And I think [in the Grafton to Inverell] mine was well over 400!

“It’s very hard.

“Sometimes the racing can get a bit strategic and the bunch can sit up for a while. Sometimes the break gets a lot of [and advantage] and the racing picks up, but there can be quite a lull. But this year there was a small break that went up the road but it went on the climb – it didn’t go early and get let go – so the pace was on right to the bottom, all the way up the climb…

“It was actually a record time for the course. It was definitely a hard Grafton to Inverell.”



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“I followed a little more from a bit of an interesting sort of character, Peter Milostic. I don’t know how old he is (42) but when I was a very young boy he was actually in one of the mountain bike teams that we were fans of.

“And he’s still going.

“I followed him and we got into a group of six up the Gibraltar and it was actually good. We were riding a pace that was fairly close to threshold. And we knew that the pace would vary and that people would try to attack across.

“In the end, they did… and, over the top, I got dropped [from] the second group but the Gibraltar is so early on in the race. It affects the race in terms of all the bunches and the strategy from there but normally you can afford to be one or two groups back and it all came together. Fortunately that’s what happened on the other side. I was in the second group and managed to [move up] shortly after.”



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Considering the comeback of Keagan Girdlestone

“I saw that he finished which is an amazing effort.

“I was having a look at some of his YouTube videos last night. He’s got a super-positive attitude and it’s a massive effort.

“It is pretty special.

“Having sort of gone through such a big injury and having an acquired brain injury – which is [similar to something my family knows about]…

“My brother had a bad accident which is one of the most significant events in my life – it has shaped me pretty greatly…

“[My brother, Danel] lives on with an acquired brain injury and I can see a lot of similarities there with Keagan.

“I really admire his attitude and his approach to life, I think it’s fantastic.”



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“Daniel is my eldest brother, the eldest of five. He was a very good athlete as well… he was my roll model growing up and that was sort of how I got into sport and things like that.

“He was a great mountain biker. He was in some sensational form and he was training and got cleaned up by a car from behind.

“It was early in the morning and the sun was in his eyes… [the driver] didn’t see him and cleaned Daniel up and he was very lucky to survive.

“We were called in several times to the ICU and they were planning on turning the machines off… they didn’t think he was going to get through several times. It’s a bit of a miracle actually. He’s doing fairly well now.

“There are a lot of similarities to Keagan…”



– Interview by Rob Arnold