Purple patch in sight
INVERELL'S Ryan Thomas will be back to defend his Jacaranda Cycling Criterium title tomorrow.
The 18-year-old young gun won at his first attempt in 2012 and, after another solid year on the bike, looks primed to go back-to-back.
Racing with the National Road Series team, Thomas won a silver medal in the junior road race at this year's state titles.
Tomorrow's A-grade race on Grafton's Prince St circuit will mark his comeback from a short spell, but that hasn't lessened his intent to be first past the post.
"I had a bit of a break and I'm back into it now, so we'll see how it goes," Thomas said.
"It's a pretty demanding hotdog course and a tough field of competitors. But I'll be looking to win. I'll try my hardest, that's for sure."
One of Thomas's main rivals will be training mate Dylan Sunderland, another up-and-coming Inverell rider.
He finished third last year and, from all reports, has improved out of sight over the past 12 months.
Thomas holds on to his junior status until December, which meant he was ineligible for last Saturday's Grafton2Inverell, an event that helped inspire him to take up cycling.
"My pop raced in the Grafton2Inverell a long time ago and had some success," he said.
"I always loved the race when I was growing up. I was hoping to go in it this year but couldn't because I'm technically still a junior. I definitely want to see how I go next year."
The winner of last week's C-grade division, Grafton Cycle Club's Matthew White, is also set to line up in the A-grade criterium.
"It's obviously a very different race to the Grafton2Inverell," White said. "It's really high-paced with speeds of about 50km/h down Prince St.
"A lot of accelerating and braking. It's a very good spectator sport."
White said he stuck with the pack for the duration of last year's race and will be hoping to pick up some prizemoney on the sprint laps during the race.
"You've got to be close to the front of the pack when you hit the corners," he said. "Otherwise it's tough staying with them when they pull away."
Sign on tomorrow is at 12pm with the first race pulling away at 1pm.
The divisions consist of A, B, C and D grades as well as Novice Juniors.