An interview with Bradley McGee, August 28, 2005
Tipped as a grand tour contender a couple of years ago, Australian time trial specialist Brad McGee has had an up-and-down career since, reaching one of its lowest points in July as injury torpedoed his Tour de France hopes. For his Vuelta debut he's here to learn, to pick up a stage win and to take a more realistic attitude to three-week tours, as he tells Shane Stokes.
Australian rider Brad McGee has only raced one day since the Tour de France, due to complications from injuries and infections caused by his crashes in the race. However he was the picture of health at the Vuelta team presentation on Friday, appearing full of energy and happy with the world. The Francaise Des Jeux rider is making his Vuelta debut and is raring to go, and was aiming for a good ride in the prologue, where he finished a creditable third; the other time trials in the race; and perhaps one or two additional stages.
McGee finished eighth in the Giro in 2004, showing his potential as a stage race rider. But this time round he's taking things differently. "I've nothing planned as far as general classification goes," he told Cyclingnews. "Look, we are in Spain, I never raced here before apart from [the Tour of] Pays Basques. I don't know the riders, I don't know the roads, I don't know how it happens. I am here just to re-find my racing form and have fun with it, and hit some stages really hard. I am looking at the world championships as well."
"A one-week tour, yeah. A three-week tour, no." - Brad McGee gets realistic about the races he can win.
Although McGee's racing since the Tour has been limited to just one day of competition, the Châteauroux Classic de l'Indre Trophée Fenioux last Sunday, he was nevertheless thinking about a top ride in the prologue of the race. "I have got the Giro [leader jersey], the Tour, and this is the one little jersey I don't have. I am really hungry for it. I haven't seen the course yet but on paper it looks good. It has a nice climb, it is quite technical. Yeah, if I am on, I am on and it is doable.
McGee will be up against a number of specialists in the Vuelta time trials, but when on form the former world pursuit champion clearly has the speed required. If the time trials in the Vuelta go well, he'll then try to take that form into the world championships, with a rainbow jersey also on his lists of targets. Watching him drag his battered body through the Tour made for tough viewing, but he knows that a strong ride here or in the world's would make all that suffering in July worthwhile.
Cyclingnews: How is your form?
Bradley McGee: I really don't know. I have raced one day since the Tour de France, last Sunday. But it was good, I was happy with how it went; a 200 kilometre race in France. I really only climbed out of bed a week ago, I have been down ever since the Tour finished. I had some injuries, and then infections, and things like that. I am happy to be here, and mentally I'm really good.
CN: Can you tell me about Sunday's race?
B McG: It was in Châteauroux. I felt really good in that, I was off the front for a fair of the race, and I had a bit of a look in the sprint. I was happy to put 200 kilometres together, going hard.
CN: It was your back that was affected by the crash in the Tour?
B McG: Yeah. I crashed in the first week which led from one problem to another, and it all went to my back. I just limped through the mountains, managed to get over it a little bit towards the last couple of days, and then crashed again on the last day. That got infected and messed me up. I had had nearly three weeks of rehab after that.
CN: You had a bit of a go on the last day, taking second behind Vinokourov.
B McG: I did, yeah. I hope to pick up here where I left off in the Tour.
CN: It must have been an encouraging finish to the race for you, because I would imagine it was very hard to struggle through the mountains with your injury?
B McG: It was good and bad. To be back in the race was great, but to finish second on the Champs was terrible! (laughs).
CN: You rode really well in the Giro a couple of years back, and that showed you have the potential to be a stage race rider. What are your ambitions for this Vuelta?
B McG: Nothing as far as general classification goes. Look, we are in Spain, I never raced here before apart from Pays Basques. I don't know the riders, I don't know the roads, I don't know how things happen here. I am here just to re-find my racing form and have fun with it, and hit some stages really hard. I am looking at the world championships as well.
CN: Are the time trials of interest to you here?
B McG: We will see how it goes. I was talking to the National team about the Worlds and if my time trialing is up to scratch here, if I get some results, then we can take it on to the Worlds.
CN: You had a great ride in the Tour prologue two years ago. Can you do something here?
B McG: Well, I have got the Giro, the Tour, and this is the one little jersey I don't have. I am really hungry for it.
CN: Do you think the prologue course is good for your characteristics?
B McG: I haven't seen it yet but on paper it looks good. It has a nice climb, it is quite technical, yeah. If I am on, I am on and it is doable.
CN: What about the time trial course in the Worlds? It is pretty flat, although it has a couple of drags on it.
B McG: If I exit the Vuelta with good legs, then anything will be good.
CN: Long-term, do you think you can win a three week tour?
B McG: No. A one-week tour, yeah. A three-week tour, no. And it is about time I accepted that, refocused on new goals on what is realistic, what works for me and the team.
CN: So what goals have you set for the future?
B McG: I have definitely got the capabilities for G.C., it is there, but I think it is too much of a risk to focus it all on one three-week race. Let's face it, I thought that top 10 or top 20 was good in the Tour, but I can't tell you who was 10th in the Tour this year. We have taken that away and realised that we should focus on races such as Paris-Nice, the Tour de Suisse, and races like that. When I hit three-week Tours, target stages, time trials and prologues.
CN: What is your programme like for the rest of the season?
B McG: Well, after this, I will do the world championships and then all the old World Cups until the Tour de Lombardy. I haven't done Lombardy before. But I have had a good break now. Normally, there is no Vuelta for me and no end of season goals. But now I am doing it [the Vuelta] and it should give me the legs I need for the world championships and the end of season races. You couldn't do it without the Vuelta.