Cyclists in the C Grade division including a host of local Grafton Cycle Club riders on the Gwydir Hwy competing in the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic .
Cyclists in the C Grade division including a host of local Grafton Cycle Club riders on the Gwydir Hwy competing in the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic . Matthew Elkerton

Sunderland aims to use local knowledge in gruelling test

CYCLING: With the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic ready to launch this weekend, a highly competitive field is expected to take part in the first event of the men's Subaru National Road Series.

<< Check out the full 2017 Grafton To Inverell Cycle Classic start list here >>

Inverell rider, Dylan Sunderland, has been enjoying great recent form and is hoping that his familiarity with local roads will be an advantage in the battle for the overall title. Sunderland won the 110km Blayney to Bathurst earlier this month and claimed a resounding win the QLD State Criterium Championship last weekend. He recognises that the Grafton to Inverell will be a step up in distance, difficulty and level of competition; however, after finishing in the top ten as a 19 year old in 2015, he is more than ready for the challenge.

"The Grafton to Inverell is the toughest one day cycling event in the country and suits my characteristics as a rider. You need to be able to climb well and also have the strength to handle the distance," Sunderland said.

Although the formidable 17km climb up the Gibraltar Range often decides who is in contention for the race win, the series of small climbs between Glen Innes and Inverell are usually crucial in deciding the final winner.

"I have spent many hours training over these climbs so I know what to expect. The aim is to be still in contention for the win over the last 40km into Inverell," Sunderland said.

As the first round of the Subaru National Road Series, a lot of teams and riders will be looking to assert their early authority on the series. Sunderland's biggest obstacle could be the strength of his NSW Institute of Sport team. The IsoWhey Sports Swiss Wellness team dominated the race last year placing six riders in the top 10. No other team can match their depth and they are expected to bring a strong contingent to the race again this year.

The race is often a good indicator of the future champions of the sport. If Sunderland is successful he will join a host of past winners and placegetters who have gone on to achieve international success in the sport. These include his uncle Scott Sunderland, who finished third in 1986 prior to commencing a successful Europeanbased career including participation in the Tour de France.

"This race will always have special meaning for me," Sunderland said.

"My family have a long involvement as riders and organisers and it would be great to bring this prestigious title to Inverell."

<< Check out the full 2017 Grafton To Inverell Cycle Classic start list here >>

Here in Grafton we get a taste of what the race is like from the start-line perspective. So what's it like at the other end of the 228km journey? The organisers put together the following virtual tour of the final 5km of the race: