AHEAD OF THE PELOTON: Competitors kick it into high gear as they begin the climb of the range in the 2017 Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic .
AHEAD OF THE PELOTON: Competitors kick it into high gear as they begin the climb of the range in the 2017 Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic . Debrah Novak

Phoenix lands in Valley for annual Classic

CYCLING: The Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic will be a homecoming of sorts for Canberra's National Road Series team Pheonix Cycling Collective.

The team who helped support the development of Grafton's own cycling superstar Craig Evers, still have plenty of family and friends living at either end of the gruelling 228km classic.

Team manager and rider Andrew McCosker has close ties to Inverell after growing up in the small town and is the son of local councillor, Neil McCosker. Having met partner and team marketing manager Michelle Balaz at the University of New England, this cycling power couple are proud to call the region a second home.

"My earliest cycling memories are riding with the Inverell Wheelers Cycling Club with Heindrich (Haussler) and watching the McGee brothers, including now-Cycling Australia High Performance Director Brad McGee, sweep the boards against the best riders in Australia at the Inverell Christmas Carnival,” McCosker said.

"I grew up watching the Grafton to Inverell every year and would be so excited to watch the riders come into Otho Street, so it is a dream come true to take my place amongst Australia's cycling greats and take on the race for a third year.

"We also have many friends in Grafton, through one of my best friends who moved to the town after we all finished university.

"My family also are huge Phoenix Cycling Collective fans, and I'm looking forward to taking Dad (Neil McCosker) to the post-race dinner on Saturday night.”

The town has pulled out all stops to welcome the team, with Balaz pleased at the "can do” attitude demonstrated by the local accommodation providers.

"We were lucky enough to book rooms for the team at the Inverell RSM Club,” she said.

"However, I also received emails from the Sapphire City Caravan Park and Fossickers Rest Caravan Park who pulled out all stops to help accommodate us.

"It is also pretty special to stay an extra day to celebrate Mother's Day with the family, as we live over nine hours away, so we'll be making the most of our visit back to the region.”

McCosker said the Pheonix Cycling Collective also had close bonds with Grafton Cycle Club after the team adopted Evers almost a decade ago.

Evers, who was a regular competitor on the range, is now competing full time in China and will not be involved in the annual classic.

Phoenix Cycling Collective is proud to be supported by Vixen PR, Onya Bike Canberra, Ollo Industries, Set 2 Physiotherapy and PhD Cycling.