One day; 228 kilometres; 71-points. The 2012 Australian National Road Series all comes down to the Grafton to Inverell this Saturday - but then again, it might not.
It's a fascinating conundrum but regardless, it is this Australian classic that will shine.
Luke Davison (Budget Forklifts) is the current NRS leader on 577 points with his nearest rival, Anthony Giacoppo (Genesys Wealth Advisers) next best on 506. Davison won't be racing this weekend, but Giacoppo will but the question is, has the West Australian sprinter got the legs to finish in the top seven riders across the finish line. Third-placed rider, Mark O'Brien (Budget Forklifts), can better his current position but if the cards fall in his favour will fall just agonisingly short of overtaking his teammate's lead despite having claimed three overall victories this season, to Davison's two.
Defending champion Mark Jamieson (Aussie Hotel Inverell) is unsure of his ability to challenge for back-to-back wins, seriously lacking in race form.
"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," he told Cyclingnews earlier this week.
Meantime runner-up in 2011, Chris Jory (GPM - Wilson Racing) is keen to go one better this time around.
"Last year I kind of feel like I got robbed a bit - I came in second, so this year I'm definitely looking forward to it again. Hopefully I've got the legs to do something," Jory told Cyclingnews. "I think the boys will have some good form and the whole team is really looking forward to the Grafton weekend. Sam Rutherford and Caleb Jones are also going well so I think we go there we a number of chances for a result."
O'Brien, who finished fourth in 2011, explained that recent races have provided a lesson for his team about the style of racing that should ensue in order to get the best results, while also sounding a warning for Genesys.
"For Genesys it will definitely be a thought to get AJ [Giacoppo] to the finish," he told Cyclingnews. "Going in with that sort of approach can be to your detriment as well. We had the same thing at Shipwreck Coast which was Luke's last race of the NRS he was more about defending his lead than actually trying to increase it and I think if you focus too much on the one strategy you can be brought unstuck."
Regardless of the tactics for the NRS title, one thing is certain - the winner on Saturday will have come out on top of a numbers game. Last year's event proved a perfect example of that with Jamieson benefitted by having numerous dangerous teammates back in the peloton and therefore had to do little work in the breakaway.
This time around, without the likes of Drapac and SASI the 52nd edition could result in a battle of wits between the bigger teams of Budget, Genesys and GPM - Wilson Racing all with stacked line-ups named.
Riders have been warned to expect hazy conditions with several bushfires currently ablaze in the local area. The 2012 Grafton to Inverell gets underway at 8am AEDT.
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