DIFFICULT CASE: Tintenbar barrister Michael McCall, who will attempt to complete his fourth Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic today.
DIFFICULT CASE: Tintenbar barrister Michael McCall, who will attempt to complete his fourth Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic today. Jacklyn Wagner

A silk of the cycling ilk

THE secret to completing the gruelling 228km Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic is a chicken sandwich, according to Tintenbar barrister Michael McCall.

McCall, who is one of seven locals contesting Australia's toughest one-day cycling event today, will load up his handler with liquids, powerbars and energy gels but he maintains the secret to cracking the Gibraltar Range is the chicken sandwich.

“You lose a couple of kilos during the race so you have to put down as much as you can,” McCall said from the Richmond Chambers.

“I'll probably go through eight bottles of fluid and the usual powerbars and gels but I always take a chicken sandwich.

“I find you get a sick, sweet taste in your mouth and you just need some meat to keep you going.”

The chicken sandwich may sound strange, but the 44-year-old has contested three Cycle Classics and finished them all.

“It's a great event, one of the toughest in Australia,” McCall said.

“If you're a racing cyclist in Australia it's one you have to do and we're just lucky enough that it's right here on our doorstep.”

The former rugby league player and triathlete has been riding competitively for about eight years, but he said it takes about six months of specific training to prepare for the race that can take eight to 10 hours.

“I start in February and I usually measure my training in hours, but generally you ride 300km to 400km a week,” McCall said.

“It's a brutal race. My first Grafton to Inverell was in 2005 and it was said to be one of the worst conditions on record.

“There was a 40-knot headwind so it just felt like you were riding into a wall.

“Half the field pulled out and I ended up with some guy from Port Macquarie sharing red frogs to get us across the line. We finished in just under 10 hours.”

In the other years, the biking barrister has taken about eight hours.

The toughest part of the 228km is the feared 20km climb up the Gib-raltar Range.

“You get to the foot of the range about the 75km to 80km mark,” McCall said.

“There's nowhere to hide. If you're a good climber you'll be with the front-runners. If you're an average climber you can find your spot but if you're a poor climber you'll fall off the back.

“It takes the top guys about 52 minutes to go up the range - it takes me about an hour.

“During that time your heart rate goes about 170 beats a min-ute, which is 85 to 90 per cent of your maximum.

“And then once you're over you have another 130km to Inv-erell.”

McCall is one of five locals contesting Division 3 along with John Nicholls, Neale McLennan, Daniel Kelly and Robert Wilmoth.

Byron Bay's Reuben Donati and Southern Cross University's Geoff Straub are in Division 1, the elite category.

It's a great event, one of the toughest in Australia ... There's nowhere to hide. - MICHAEL McCALL


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