ONE previous grade winner and a squadron of hopeful contenders will represent the Coffs Coast in today’s 50th McDonald’s Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic.
Glenn O’Grady won the C-grade division 20 years ago and, according to A-grade entrant and club spokesperson Dan Alcock, is riding like a man half his age and hoping for a repeat.
“All riders from Coffs Harbour will be strong contenders in their respective grades,” he predicted.
“In the higher grades we are fielding some strong riders and all have ridden well in the race before.
“Maybe we can take benefit from living close to the event and having past history of doing battle.”
Vanessa McDonald will line-up in what has been described as the hottest women’s A-grade contingent in the history of the great race.
Alcock is part of the McDonald’s NAB cycle team with another team racer, Erin Rogers, tipped to make her presence felt.
“The three of us are hoping for good placings despite taking on the best riders in the country,” Alcock said.
“We’ll be flying the Coffs Harbour flag high over our northern borders.”
Other C-grade contenders are Luke Alcock, Matt Hoy, Danny Lupinski, Chris Andrews, Dave Munro, Chris Bloomfied-Brown, and Peter McLennen.
Zeno Baston, Paul O’Brian and Richards Berends will ride in D-grade.
One of Australia’s greatest road races, the 228km event is billed as by far, the toughest.
This year’s anniversary inspired a huge list of 556 riders to do the training necessary to attack the massive distance and exhausting long climbs.
The route heads west from Grafton along the Gwyder Highway giving riders their first taste of hills to tackle.
Around the 80km mark the riders begin the ascent of Gibraltar Range.
“This climb is 18km long and sorts the field out by splintering the race apart,” Alcock revealed.
“We then repeatedly descend and climb for the next 50km topping out at close to 1200m above sea level.
“By this stage, fatigue is a major factor and the altitude can lead to a huge change in climate and wind conditions.”
The next 100km are the most difficult of all with participants still left in the running exposed to winds on the tablelands that can split the race even further apart, leaving small groups riding through the long exposed plains.
“There are two more major climbs after Glen Innes, but mercifully, the last 20km is on level road with many people coming out to cheer the riders into Inverell.”