PICTURESQUE PEDALLING: Cyclists in the McDonalds B Grade division warm in to the gruelling 228km journey along Ryan Street, South Grafton during last year's running of the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic.
PICTURESQUE PEDALLING: Cyclists in the McDonalds B Grade division warm in to the gruelling 228km journey along Ryan Street, South Grafton during last year's running of the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic. Matthew Elkerton

Cycling classic opens more lanes for competitors

CYCLING: The time-honoured Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic will look to capitalise on the success of last year's change to an autumn date as it better serves the Subaru National Road Series.

The gruelling 228km mountain trek will act as the second round of the NRS when it starts from Prince Street on May 13.

The event will again feature three divisions of races with the addition of two new categories to increase the participation opportunities for riders.

The Regional Australia Bank Grafton to Inverell des Femmes provides an opportunity for the women to have their own race category within the Division 3 race.

While the 'Challenge' category will enable 'non-racing' riders to also be part of the action as they aim to complete the course in under the 9hr 30 min cut off time.

The moving of the date from late September to May last year saw an increase in nominated riders and event director Chris Thompson is hoping to continue that trend with next month's classic.

"The Grafton to Inverell is such an iconic event that is extremely challenging but also very rewarding just to finish. We are extending the opportunity to experience this event to more of the cycling community,” he said.

"The introduction of women a couple of years ago has been a resounding success and it is great that they now have their own category. It is a rare opportunity for the girls to be able to take part in a race of this distance anywhere in the world.”

The Men's Division 1 race remains one of the most prestigious titles on the Subaru National Road Series calendar. The race which is now in its 57th edition has featured many past winners and placegetters who have gone on to become a force in international cycling.

Last year, the favourable Spring conditions saw Avanti Isowhey team rider Pat Lane become the first rider to break the elusive six hour barrier for the gruelling 228km journey.

"We are hopeful of another very strong field in the NRS Division 1 race with teams and riders looking to take advantage of the opportunity to accumulate early points in the series,” Thompson said.

"The riders will need to come well-prepared as such a challenging, one day classic is sure to test the field”.

"The prospect for good fields in the other divisions is equally exciting. The feedback from riders in 2016 complimented the earlier date in allowing them to enjoy better training conditions leading into the race.”

It is expected 2016 C Grade champion and Grafton local Jye Reardon will be back on the Gibraltar Range to defend his crown along with a strong contingent of Grafton Cycle Club riders who battled an Inverell to Grafton run last week in preparation.