The Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic will be a fitting host for the first elite male race of the 2016 Subaru National Road Series, with Australia?s best riders tackling what is arguably the toughest one-day race in the country.
Now in its 56th edition, the 228 kilometre epic through Northern New South Wales has an illustrious history with a star-studded honour roll.
Sean Lake (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) made his mark on that history last year, becoming the first back-to-back winner. In 2015, Lake broke away with 50 kilometres to go last October to seal an emphatic victory, and is hoping to continue his success on Saturday 7 May.
?It has been a very special experience every time I go up to Grafton and I am super excited for this edition,? said Oceania road race and individual time trial champion 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 continued. ?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!?
Lake will have the assistance of a strong Avanti IsoWhey Sports line-up, with former New Zealand road race champion Joe Cooper, Patrick Shaw and Neil van der Ploeg among those available to help the two-time winner over the challenging Gibraltar Range climb. Yet with State of Matter MAAP Racing determined to avenge a poor showing in 2015, it will be no easy race for Andrew Christie-Johnson?s riders.
?Last year the team [then CharterMason Giant Racing] had a rough time and ultimately withdrew from the race,? explained Inverell-born Dylan Sunderland. ?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!”
The Sunderlands have a long history with the race, and the latest cycling star out of Inverell is eager to continue the family tradition.
?This race means a lot personally, as a local rider,? he said. ?My father and my uncle have both ridden it several times and my father is now on the organising committee. Growing up I watched this race every year, so it is one I always want to go well in.?
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