By Viktor Berg
ACA-Ride Sunshine Coast recruit Ashley Mackay says the team is chasing a podium position in Australia’s toughest one-day cycling race on Saturday.
Mackay will ride in support of Michael Potter, who won the Tour de Tochigi in Japan last month, when the new squad opens its National Road Series campaign in the gruelling Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic.
“We do believe we have riders who can participate and really make the race, and they’re going to be the ones that can really get over that line first,” Mackay said.
Potter and Cameron Scott are co-leaders in the five-man line-up with Mackay and Amarni Gates in support roles.
“Ultimately you always want to aim for the win, so we’re going to do everything we can to do that,” Mackay said.
Mackay, 22, will provide valuable support in the New South Wales event after filling the role of domestique during the Tour de Tochigi and the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
Riders in the 58th edition of the Grafton to Inverell face a total distance of 228km and 3382m of climbing.
“Distance alone is going to make it hard, then you throw in a 1000m elevation 80km into the race – that’s going to change the whole dynamic,” Mackay said.
“It’s not exactly flat after that either, some say the hardest part is after the climb just because it’s relentless.
“I’m going to play a support role as best I can.”
Mackay said his focus would be to help out Potter as much as possible, while surviving in his own right.
“He’s going to be looking at really giving it a crack,” he said.
Mackay, who joined the USC-based team from Perth, said the early stages would be crucial for the team to be able to set themselves up for the finale.
“The actual race will start way before the actual climb itself, I expect the hardest part to be the first 20k run-in,” Mackay said.
He said that part of the race would be extremely fast as riders try to be in front before the first major climb to avoid splits or crashes.
“When you’re going up the hill, obviously positioning is going to be key, so you want to be at least top third going into that climb,” he said.
“Ideally you want to have your team mates around you, keep each other safe, [and when] you hit the climb, everything is clear.”
In preparation for the race, Mackay has been doing around 21 hours of endurance training a week, as well as combining his sports studies degree as part of USC’s high performance student athlete program.
“It’s a single-day event, but quite a long duration so you want to be able to make sure you can go the distance without hitting the wall … the dreaded wall,” he said.