STEPHEN Fairless, the 1991 winner of the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, will return to the Sapphire City this weekend to ride this Saturday’s 53rd edition of the great race as his way of saying thanks to the late Jack Griffin.
Fairless, from the Shepparton Club in Victoria, led home a Victorian trifecta in 1991 in a touch under 7 hours.
It was his third attempt at the race after riding in the 1984 and 1985 editions.
Greg Kachel had the chance to interview him on 2NZ last weekend and found the former winner eager to ride this weekend, albeit in the Masters division.
“Steve said he had wanted to come back for the 50th a few years ago,” Kachel said.
“But he couldn’t make it.
“ When he heard Jack had passed away earlier this year and they were making a Jack Griffin Shield to present to the A Grade winner, he decided he would come back for sure.
“He said Jack did a lot for him.”
In his short interview, Fairless also said he regretted giving away professional riding at an early age.
“He still competes at Masters level and I think he might have won a race on the weekend,” Kachel added.
Cycling NSW CEO Phil Ayres will present the Jack Griffin Memorial Shield to the winning rider after Saturday’s race.
Jack’s son, Ray Griffin, will then make the official presentation of the first shield at Saturday night’s official presentation dinner at Inverell’s Holy Trinity School.
Last year’s winner, Peter Herzig from the Budget Forklifts Team, will also line up again and attempt to be only the second rider to win two Grafton classics.
The feat has only been accomplished by Victorian Institute of Sport rider Jamie Drew in 1997 and 1999, although New Zealander Craig Saunders won in 1994 and finished third in 1995 and 1996.
With the inclusion of 10 Subaru National Road Series Teams, entry numbers have been boosted to around 280 across the three grades.
The leading NRS team, Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisers, will not be riding this Saturday’s race.