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Port cyclists’ ticket to ride in Grafton to Inverell Classic

Before you contact the Port News outlining your concerns, these cyclists are spread out just for the purposes of our photo. From left, Simon Bank, Greg Linsdell, Pieter Nieuwoudt, Deb Hennessey, Col Turner and Ashley Stapley are set for the Grafton to Inverell Classic. Pic: MATT McLENNANTHIS group represents history for Port Macquarie Cycle Club.
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These six riders will make up the biggest contingent anyone from the club can remember when they tackle the Grafton to Inverell Classic on Saturday.

It will be 232 kilometres of hell. An 18km climb at the 80km mark will separate the best riders from the bunch on the Gwydir Highway.

The race is arguably the toughest in the country, but the Port Macquarie riders plan to work together to triumph over the Gibraltar Range.

They’ll need each other. There isn’t much in the way of descents to reward riders for their hard work on the range.

Strong head and cross winds make things even tougher.

Club president Greg Linsdell has competed in the sportif on the same course before, which is a non-competitive version of the classic.

He said the scenery is beautiful, but riders won’t notice the view.

“They’ll be more focused on the pain,” he said.

Deborah Hennessey is just the second Port Macquarie woman to contest the race, after it was announced women could enter the full event.

Vicki Kennedy was the first Port woman to ride in it.

Hennessey is aware of the significance of entering the Classic.

“It’s a really good opportunity to do the race,” she said.

She doesn’t have a time goal. She just wants to finish the big event.

Hennessey is apprehensive about the distance.

“The farthest I’ve trained is about 180 or 190km,” she said.

She found out in July that she would be able to enter the race, so Hennessey hasn’t had as long to train for the event than most other competitors.

Port will have three support vehicles providing food, water and spare parts.

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While he’s not making outlandish claims about one of the Port riders taking out the race, Linsdell said entering was the first step to a strong showing.

“We’re in it, so we’ve got a chance,” he said.

He plans for bigger Port representation in future classics. This year’s group was just the start for Linsdell and the club.

“It’s a great show of strength,” he said.

“A good starting place.”

Some strong younger riders put the club in a great position heading into the future.

“We’ve got a really good junior base developing,” Linsdell said.

“In years to come, they’ll be in the Grafton to Inverell.”

Col Turner is lining up for his fourth race. He said conditions had a huge impact on riders .

A forecast 18-20 degrees could be comfortable, but if it rains, it could be quite cold.

In the sportif this year, it was 13 when the riders crossed the top of the range.

“Everyone was shivering cold,” Turner said.

“You use up a lot of energy trying to keep warm.”

Ashley Stapley is keen, even though he thinks he’s underdone in terms of training.

Stapley is coming across to cycling from triathlons, and has really dedicated himself to two wheels for the past 12 months.

How he goes tomorrow will dictate the rest of his races for the year.

“There will be reassessment,” he said.

Simon Bank is also in his first Grafton to Inverell.

He’s done a couple of state races this season to prepare. One was the 110km Gunnedah to Tamworth race.

“Grafton to Inverell is a whole different beast,” he said.

Pieter Nieuwoudt is the other member of the group.

He’s trained the house down in preparation for the big race.

“He’s worked hard,” Linsdell said of Nieuwoudt.

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