Sean Lake pumped to make it a Grafton to Inverell three-peat
CYCLING: The Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic is arguably the toughest one-day road race in the country.
It is now the first elite race of the 2016 Subaru National Road series with a swathe of professional cyclists vying for early championship points.
Now in its 56th edition, the 228 kilometre epic over the Gibraltar Range has an illustrious history with a star-studded honour roll.
Sean Lake made his mark on that history last year, becoming the first back-to-back winner. Lake broke away with 50 kilometres to go last October to seal an emphatic victory, and wants to make it a three-peat tomorrow.
"It has been a very special experience every time I go up to Grafton and I am super excited for this edition," said Avanti Isowhey Sports Team's Lake.
"I will be the strongest I have ever been heading into the race, and it would be absolutely amazing to have a crack at the triple."
This year the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic takes place in May, rather than its usual October spot on the domestic racing calendar, and Lake praised the scheduling decision.
"I think moving the race to the beginning of the Subaru National Road Series season is a good thing," he said.
"It is something for all the riders to look forward to, and with the European Classics on at the moment there is plenty of extra motivation to race our own Classic in Australia."
Since last year's event Lake has aligned himself with top racing team Avanti Isowhey and with the likes of former New Zealand road race champion Joe Cooper on his side the two-time winner is in good stead.
But there is a host of other cycle teams ready to knock Lake off his perch including a strong State of Matter MAAP team with local Inverell cyclist Dylan Sunderland heading their efforts.
"Last year the team had a rough time and ultimately withdrew from the race," Sunderland said.
"I was not part of that, and we come into the race this year with a new team, a new bunch of guys, who have already shown plenty of promise - it should be a great day."
"This race means a lot personally, as a local rider."