Cyclists set for tough test
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
IT'S not a quite a stage of Le Tour de France but tomorrow's Grafton to Coffs road race will still leave all riders a fair bit saddle sore by the end of the journey. Starting from the Hotel Five in South Grafton, the Orara Way will host riders of varying ability as they find their way to the hall at Upper Orara with Mt. Brown Road creating one final gruelling challenge before the finish line is reached. Local rider Dan Alcock won the event in 2004 and he admits that as a Coffs rider, it's a race that he looks forward to each year. "It's a real goal for local riders to enter this race as it's our home race," he explained. "Most people are pretty keen for the Grafton to Coffs." When Alcock says most people, he isn't just referring to members of the Coffs Cycle Club. The 104km race for the A grade riders and 78km journey for the rest is one of the most popular events on the region's calendar. Entrants into tomorrow's big field have come from as far as away as Port Macquarie, Armidale, Inverell and even Newcastle. Making a comeback to cycling this season, Vanessa McDonald is about to tackle her first Grafton to Coffs race. "It's just a natural thing to do for Coffs people," she said. "Once you do a season you want to go into the race and it will be great to have the family coming and cheering you on." Being her first try, McDonald doesn't hold any dreams of grandeur. "I'm probably happy to finish with the bunch because it's an open event and I'll be racing against the men," she explained. Alcock's goals are set a lot higher than that and considering the training workload that he's put in, it's no surprise. Riding five days a week, the former winner and last year's runner-up has been trying to complete a climb of Dorrigo mountain at least once a week to prepare for the long kilometres ahead. He's managed to get the time that he does for a climb down to around 40 minutes. Depending on the weather and road conditions on Sunday, riders are expected to take somewhere around two and a half hours to complete the course.