Cyclists will do it tough
By Tony White
Today's annual Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic is widely regarded as the toughest one day bike race in Australia.
And for good reason.
Two hundred cyclists, including budding Olympians, Commonwealth Games aspirants and weekend warriors, will tackle the torturous 228km course starting in Prince Street, Grafton around 7.30am. Elite cyclists are expected to finish in Otho Street, Inverell around 2.30pm.
The stragglers, much later.
Grafton's Gary Reardon will pedal off on his 12th Classic.
Reardon, 47, and cane farmer Frazer Chapman, 41, tackling his first Classic ride, are our only local representatives.
Fitness, dedication and a modicum of sado masochism are required for what many cyclists claim is "a ride through hell and back again."
Reardon, with several placings in division categories to his credit, first tackled the arduous trek in 1986.
"Several times I've said no way, not again," Reardon said.
"But we didn't have any locals riding last year and that sort of inspired me to give it a go again this year, especially as it's a race that is on our doorstep.
"But it's tough, the toughest one day race in Australia.
"And if the westerly wind is blowing it's like adding another 100 kilometres. If it's wet too, then it can be hell on wheels."
While Reardon and hopefully Chapman can complete the event, their motivation for entering is a far cry from the elite riders.
"This race is not about blokes like us, it's about the Olympians, the Commonwealth Games competitors who are chasing big points to help qualify for those events.
"The A-Grade this year is particularly strong, plenty of riders coming up from Victoria and Queensland.
"For me personally the race is about conquering that mountain again, the satisfaction of getting there (Inverell)."
Athletes 'hitting the wall' is common in the Grafton to Inverell.
"It is a race of attrition and probably the toughest part is from Grafton to the top of the range," Reardon said.
"It's only about 90km into the race with the Gibraltar Range at 70km. Up the mountain they get strung out over a great number of kilometres.
"You've got to push yourself through there. It hurts and you ask yourself constantly 'what am I doing this for'."