For the sidelines, the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, this year on May 13, seems to be a sure thing for the fastest, most tenacious rider.
But with a field of internationally-competitive winners and die-hards, why do the strongest and fastest not always come first over the finish line?
The Northern Daily Leader asked NSWIS Cycling Team member, and podium favourite, Inverell’s Dylan Sunderland, how team tactics can affect the 228km road race outcome.
This year’s 57th annual edition of what is considered Australia’s longest one-day race, will be Sunderland’s third attempt, after finishing 8th in a field of 85 in 2015, and 13th from a field of 135 in 2016.
What are team tactics, and when are they decided?
Usually the teams all sit down the night before, and run through the possible scenarios on the day of what could happen on the day, and what other riders those teams have.
Depending on the strength of the riders. Pretty much who’s the strongest on the teams, and what sort of numbers the teams have.
So what does that mean in regards to strategy?
Guys on the team will actually sacrifice their race for another rider to help out that rider though the day.
How does that work?
Going back, getting bidons (water/fluid bottles) from team cars, riding in the front which is pushing wind for the other riders, and just keeping in good position through the day.
All of the stuff like that takes the energy out of you.
Do plans change through the race?
A lot of times, the strategy you decide to go with, isn’t the one that happens. Usually, we change through the race to suit a situation.
It’s a long, mountainous ride. What’s the toughest part of the day?
The Gibraltar Range, it’s not a deciding point in the race, but you can definitely lose it from there, but you can’t win it from there.
It’s just too far out. From about Glen Innes home, that’s when it starts to get real.
The race really gets turned on and it’s really the business end of the race.