By Shane Stokes
After frustrating times in the past few seasons when back problems made things tough for him in stage races such as the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, Française des Jeux rider Brad McGee seems confident that a solution is in sight. The Australian placed second in the Giro d'Italia prologue but then had to withdraw from the race on stage 10 due to a sciatic nerve problem. He says some important work has been done since then.
"I took ten days off as I had to get some problems fixed up after stopping the Giro. It was my back, the sciatic nerve was flaring up. They fixed it up and now I am pedaling correctly, once again using my two legs. So that is good!
"We think the problem was caused by a combination of things including the position I was riding in - especially on my time trial bike. We've changed that. They injected directly into my spine to stop the inflammation, to settle it down. That basically reset the whole thing. And then treating it was down to building a bit of core strength and monitoring my position on the bike to make sure I am not over-extending the problem parts. It is going well, I just have to keep an eye on it."
McGee says that the issue has been there for quite a while. "It is something that built up from many problems, including crashes, over the past few years. I had it in the Tour before. All these things have been building up and it finally just went too far. I had to stop, but we seem to have got it fixed up. It is going to be an ongoing process, though."
The good news is that he can expect an improvement in form, and that may prove crucial when it comes to July. "I must have been suffering with this a long time because the difference I am feeling now is incredible. I am just missing some form. But I have managed to build up a bit. I did a training camp last week, training at 50%, and this week I am back to 100% effort. So it is just a matter of time."
McGee had a strong Tour de Suisse last time round, placing second in the stage two time trial behind Jan Ullrich, winning a sprint against quite a few riders to take stage three and then finishing eighth overall, 4 minutes and 13 seconds behind winner Aitor Gonzalez. This year he is still building form, but he would like to do something nonetheless.
"There are some nice stages here," he stated. "The GC would be unrealistic but there are some nice stages to go for. The young Swede Thomas Lövkvist is up here with the team so I will give him a hand, too. That should give me some very strong legs for the Tour. I will see what I can do in the time trial here, and keep building towards the prologue in the Tour."