By Jean-François Quénet in Saint-Etienne
It's been awhile since Bradley McGee last appeared in the front break of a road race, but in Wednesday's stage three of Paris-Nice, he was off the front with two others for 132 kilometres despite still suffering an injured left knee following a heavy crash the previous day.
"Two years ago, the last time I took part in this race, I pulled out during that same stage to Saint-Etienne because I was ten minutes behind the bunch after 40 kilometres of racing," the Australian recalled. "Today, I was ten minutes ahead of the bunch after 40 kilometres, so you can tell how I'm feeling after doing that."
After experiencing so many physical troubles in the past two years, it was questionable whether or not McGee would be able to come back at the highest level of professional cycling at age 32, for his 11th season. Stage three answered exactly that question. "Just wait until this winter is over and I'll be really dangerous," McGee had said in Saint-Etienne.
"I'm really disappointed that I didn't have the legs at this time of the year to follow [Kjell] Carlström and [Clément] L'Hottelerie to contest the stage win, but with frozen feet and frozen hands, I couldn't go any further. I'm disappointed but it's a positive day as well," said McGee. 2008 being an Olympic year has probably helped him find the motivation for a fresh jump start to his career.
McGee is determined to defend his title in the team pursuit with his fellow Australian mates. The first step of this new campaign on the track was the World Cup in Los Angeles in January. Right after Paris-Nice, he'll join the Australian team for a specific training camp on the velodrome in Bordeaux. Then comes the second step towards Beijing 2008 - the World Championships in Manchester at the end of March when he race both individual and team pursuits.
McGee will return to the road for the Tour of Georgia in April and the Giro d'Italia in May. Being healthy and motivated again, he's back in contention as a star for the prologues and more.