Just over four months ago, Brent Rees was laid up in hospital with three fractured vertebrae, a broken nose and cheek.
Now the young rider is gearing up for his first Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic - a 228 kilometre course with a grueling 3382 metres of climbing. It's a challenge for even the most elite riders, but more so for Rees, who will be shifting from his usual mountain bike to a road bike to take on the A Grade as part of wildcard team JAKROO Racing.
"It hasn't been my ideal preparation with my accident, but I'm pretty happy with where my fitness is and I'm just excited for the opportunity to give it a go," Rees said.
He's been back into full-time training for eight weeks, but was testing out the bike just two weeks after the accident. Despite living in a back brace that wouldn't allow him to bend over, Rees found a way to rig up his stationary bike to stay upright so that he could pedal again.
"I was pretty sick of sitting on the couch so I thought I'd get a bit proactive. I did that just to try and keep a little bit of fitness and try and to stay active," he said.
Rees has ridden the Glen Innes - Inverell route before and taken on the range in training runs with fellow locals Dylan and Zak Sunderland, but Saturday will be his first time completing the full Grafton to Inverell course.
A member of the national under 23 team last year, Rees has already made his mark in the mountain biking world; but the length of the local road race will prove difficult.
"We are generally best suited to short, sharp climbs because in a mountain bike race you just do six laps, which is only an hour and a half. So both the distance of the climb and the overall distance will be the greatest challenges for me," he said.
Despite the difficulty, Rees is feeling optimistic. He's looking forward to helping JAKROO Racing build their reputation, and is not putting any pressure on himself to perform.
"I'm happy to just get out there and do my best. It's a very open minded approach and it suits me to the ground because they're (JAKROO Racing) also just building this year. It's a win-win really for my team and myself," he said.
He considers the crash almost as a stroke of luck, as being put out of the running for the mountain biking national championships and Oceanias have allowed him to brush up on his road bike skills.
Rees is excited to test his limits and see if he can keep up with fellow Inverell A Graders Dylan Sunderland and Ryan Thomas.
"It would be pretty cool to race alongside those guys who I've looked up to for a fair few years and trained with. And they have helped me out a lot in the last few months as well."
Rees says Inverell's riders are all in with a strong chance, and he expects Zak Sunderland and Callum Dolby to be "at the pointy end of the race" in the B Grade.
"Alwyn Miller just never gives up, so you can never write him off, and then there's Codie Miller in the C Grade - he's riding great."
With many long-running Australian races fading out, Rees says he's impressed to see Inverell continue to support the annual cycle classic year after year.
"The local club members sacrifice a lot of their time to run this event and it's pretty cool to see it continue," he said.