Defending champion for the 228 kilometre Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, Mark Jamieson, admits he may be a little underdone when it comes to race form, but don't be surprised if he gives himself every chance to make the final selection on Saturday afternoon.
Jamieson has had just one start in this year's Australian National Road Series, The Tour of the Great South Coast in August riding for the RBS Morgans - ATS squad that has since collapsed, but was also kept busy in the first half of 2012 riding as a pilot for blind Paralympian Bryce Lindores.
"I feel honoured to be riding with the Aussie Hotel Inverell team because they're trying to save my bacon a little bit with the collapse of our team," Jamieson told Cyclingnews. "There's some really good guys in our team. I've been training pretty closely with Geoff Straub and had a lot to do with Brendan Jones who's been organising it. We'll have a good crack."
A former world champion on the track, Jamieson won last year's classic in a record time of 6:00:21, ahead of Chris Jory and Brian McLeod, with his wily track nous certainly playing a role as he outwitted and outpaced the handful of riders to make the final selection on Gibsons Hill, six kilometres out from the finish. It was the biggest win of his career on the road.
This time around, Jamieson says he'll have to keep what intensity he does have up his sleeve for later in the race and will evaluate his chances by the time the race reaches the Wire Gully climb, the penultimate KOM of the day.
"Last year I had the race intensity under my legs so I could afford to go a little bit deeper earlier in the race," he explained. "I've been doing good kilometres and good strength work and riding the tandem's been good for my strength this year as well. I think I'll approach it by trying to get through to Wire Gully and then if I do that I'll use the one or two bits of intensity that I do have in the final 30kms."
Adding an extra bit of spice to the 2012 edition of ‘The Grafton' is the fact that the race is the final event on the NRS calendar with the title well and truly up for grabs given the fact that series leader, Luke Davison (Budget Forklifts) is not racing and his nearest rivals, teammate Mark O'Brien and Genesys Wealth Advisers' Anthony Giacoppo are both in striking distance should they win on Saturday. Jamieson admits that desire to claim the NRS title may not be enough when it comes to arguably one of the toughest races on the Australian calendar.
"There will be teams that will be looking at the overall season as well as the Grafton win as an individual race but at the end of the day, it's one of the races where it's such a long day and so many things can happen," he told Cyclingnews. "The course and the conditions and the guys that make that final selection will determine the race more than team tactics."