RACE READY: Aaron Watts in training for the 2019 Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic.
RACE READY: Aaron Watts in training for the 2019 Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic. Adam Weathered

Watts geared up for ninth Grafton to Inverell Classic

CYCLING: The Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic has built a reputation over the past 59 years as being one of the toughest road cycle races in Australia, and for good reason.

The 228km route is rarely flat, with steep uphill stages that wind through the demanding Gibraltar Range, starting at about 23m above sea level in Grafton before hitting a peak of 1260m. It's not just the terrain with which cyclists have to contend. It's also the weather. The cold and wind tests the mental and physical strength of everyone saddled up for the race.

For cyclist Aaron Watts, he wouldn't have it any other way.

Watts is gearing up for his ninth Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, and said he was looking forward to the challenge.

"It is such an epic day, 230km and over the Gibraltar Range,” he said.

"It brings a great sense of achievement when you finish a race like that. That's what brings people back year after year.”

The former Yamba local, who now lives on the Gold Coast, will be racing with team GPM-Stulz in the National Road Series division. Watts said the team was capable of a podium finish this year.

"It's a small but quality field this weekend. With the weather conditions predicted a podium finish will be tough but definitely achievable,” he said.

Between studying education full-time at Griffith University on the Gold Coast and working at Nobby Beach Surf Club, Watts said his preparations for this year's event had been good.

"I feel like I can achieve a good result at this race,” he said.

"It's been a pretty tight schedule, juggling full-time uni and working commitments, so my training sessions are usually fairly short, but intense.”

There will be 13 teams competing for the Cycling Australia NRS title, with major contenders including InForm TM Insight MAKE rider and last year's winner Nathan Elliott, from Victoria.