After finishing seventh at the Tour of California in 2018, Brandon McNulty went into this year's race with high ambitions and the backing of his Rally UHC Cycling team, which had helped shepherd him to the overall victory of the Giro di Sicilia just weeks earlier.
A flu virus McNulty picked up after Fleche Wallonne knocked the 21-year-old American out of the California race, however. Now he's ready to bounce back at the upcoming Tour de Suisse, looking to prove what he can do against WorldTour competition when his health is intact.
"Tour of California was a bit of a disaster, and I had to take over a week off the bike," McNulty said in an interview published on the team's website. "I just had to reset physically and mentally. Sometimes doing nothing is the best training. At this point, I’m happy to be feeling normal again and look forward to racing in Switzerland with my teammates."
The US-based Pro Continental team will head into the Tour de Suisse with a roster that includes sprinters Colin Joyce and Ryan Anderson, while Robin Carpenter will help in the leadout while also chasing stage wins from the escapes. For the mountains, the team will field a three-pronged attack that includes McNulty, Rob Britton and Gavin Mannion. WorldTour veteran and road captain Svein Tuft will round out the seven-rider roster.
"I think we have a nice mix of riders and can do a lot of things at this race," McNulty said. "Robin is riding super strong and fills a lot of roles. Randy and Colin will contest the sprints, Rob, Gavin, and I will take a run at the GC and daddy Svein will keep both riders and directors in line to make sure we don’t do anything too silly."
McNulty's California effort took the first hit on the high-altitude stage 2 slog to South Lake Tahoe, where he finished 57th and lost more than eight minutes to the leaders. McNulty tried to fight through the illness, even making the breakaway on stage 5, but he was forced to abandon the following day on the queen stage to Mt. Baldy. Since then, he's refocused his energy to get back on track.
“After Cali I took over a week away from the bike, then slowly built up starting with 90-minute rides, so I think the main difference is that I’ve done significantly less than normal. I'm not too stressed, though,” McNulty said of his preparation for the Swiss race.
"This race may be nine days, which on paper is longer than anything I’ve done such as Cali. But really it’s just two time trials longer, which will only be 30-40 minutes worth of racing. Plus, Cali was quite difficult this year with four days in a row of well over 200 kilometres."
The Tour de Suisse begins Saturday, June 15, and runs through June 23. The race starts with a flat 9.5km time trial in Langnau and continues with six more road stages before the second time trial on the penultimate day. The second race against the clock covers 19.2km of flat ground before the 144.4km queen stage that starts and finishes in Goms. The stage includes three out-of-category climbs. The route is difficult, of course, but McNulty's biggest challenge will come from the cast of characters he'll face in the team's biggest, most prestigious race to date.
"It should be quite a strong field," he said. "Looks like a lot of the big boys are at the Dauphiné, but I’m sure there will be some very strong competition."
Rally UHC Cycling for Tour de Suisse: Ryan Anderson, Rob Britton, Robin Carpenter, Colin Joyce, Gavin Mannion, Brandon McNulty, Svein Tuft