THEY launched the 2013 Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic without two major elements in the Inverell RSM Club yesterday – a major sponsor and one of its founders and great supporters.
While the major sponsorship is a financial burden on the race organisers, the death of race founder Jack Griffin earlier this year casts an emotional shadow over the iconic race.
The late, great Jack Griffin rode in the first Grafton to Inverell and was race director for many.
This year’s 53rd race on October 26 will be the first time he has not appeared at the 228km single stage epic.
But he will be there in more than just spirit after Cycling NSW donated the Jack Griffin Memorial Shield.
“It has been donated by Cycling NSW and will be presented for the first time this year,” spokesman Greg Kachel said.
“It has the winner of every event inscribed and will be presented to each year’s winner and hang permanently in the Inverell RSM Club.”
Jack Griffin was involved in every race, first as a competitor, then as the race director and promoter, and in later life as a race guest and spectator.
His son Ray told the gathering his father would be ecstatic the race is going from strength to strength, and he would be wearing that famous big grin knowing Cycling NSW has initiated the Jack Griffin Memorial Shield.
The Jack Griffin Memorial Shield is a poignant touch to a race regarded as the toughest single stage race in the nation.
A gathering of civic dignitaries, sponsors and cycling officials launched the 2013 race yesterday.
It will also double as the 14th and final round of the Subaru National Road Series.
It will also have a few minor changes, as Andrew Blake, president of Inverell Cycle’n’Tri Club, said.
The Inverell Cycle’n’Tri Club runs the Cycle Classic.
Andrew Blake said this year’s B and C Grade fields would leave Grafton as one bunch, 15 minutes behind the A-grade field.
“This has been done to allow a smoother transition between Grafton and the Gibralter Range in relation to traffic control and the official control of the race in the first 70km,” he said.
He also thanked the numerous sponsors who are supporting the event, the police and Road and Maritime Services for their co-operation, and the Inverell Shire, Glen Innes Severn and Clarence Valley Councils.
Scott Sunderland, who was born and raced in Inverell, will officiate as race director for the Grafton to Inverell.
He was the Elite Men’s Australian road racing champion in 1986 before heading to Europe where he enjoyed a 25-year career as a professional cyclist and team manager
Sunderland said this year’s Classic would see a fantastic line-up of the best National Road Series teams and riders competing in Australia.
“These riders will be all chasing the prestigious crown of the toughest one-day classic race in Australia,” Sunderland said.
Mayor of Inverell, and Chairman of the Sapphire City Festival, councillor Paul Harmon, officially launched the race.
A message of support from Cycling NSW Chief Executive Officer Phil Ayres was also read to the gathering.