Australia’s toughest one-day cycling race, the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, has opened registrations for 2019.
With a goal to expand opportunities for riders this year, organisers are hoping for growth in numbers throughout all categories.
Event director Chris Thompson estimated more than 600 entries, off the back of a 30 per cent increase in registrations for 2018’s event.
“Grafton to Inverell will be one of the early rounds of the National Road Series again this year so we are looking forward to having a very strong field in the division one event which is open to national, international and wildcard teams.
“We’ve seen growth in division one every year,” he said.
Division two is open to male riders throughout Australia generally grading a little higher, and division three allows older male Masters competitors to challenge themselves.
Thompson said the Women’s ‘des Femmes’ race, first introduced around three years ago, will offer more prize money in 2019.
“We are hoping for more competitors in the des Femmes this year as we are raising the prestige of this event. We want to increase recognition for females so eventually it becomes on par with the men,” he said.
Organisers of the Grafton to Inverell hope, by raising prestige, they can change the culture of cycling as a male-dominated sport.
“We are proud to say we hope we’re changing the culture, giving women an opportunity to take part in a tough and grueling event they they haven’t been able to do in a racing capacity in the past,” he said.
The final event riders can enter is the challenge category, open to none-races wanting to take on the course.
All they have to do is finish before the cut off time of 9.5 hours.
The concept of having ‘guardian angels’ as pace riders on the course was introduced last year, and after the positive feedback, will return in 2019.
“They were so well received by all riders, particularly due to last year’s tough conditions. We had a group of 24 who came in just before the broom wagon and it was largely to do with the support shown by the guardian angels.”
Thompson said it was hard to determine whether the race record would be threatened in 2019.
“Last year they were about an hour slower due to conditions, and the year before the race record was broken so who knows what will happen this year,” he said.
The Grafton to Inverell has also paired with charity Freedom Wheels this year, an organisation building special bikes for kids with disabilities, freeing them to experience the independence and joy of cycling.
For every $1000 raised, a child can get out of their wheelchair and onto their custom-made Freedom Wheels bike and join you in the thrill of riding.
The 228 kilometre ride will take place on May 11. To enter, donate to Freedom Wheels or find out more about the grueling course, head to www.graftontoinverell.com.au.