By Anthony Tan
Last year was very much a reality check for Francaise des Jeux's Bradley McGee, who approached the season with lofty ambitions of a high classement générale in a Grand Tour but fell considerably short of those goals. Before the start of the 2005 Vuelta a España, he admitted to Cyclingnews it was time to face reality and focus on objectives he knew he was capable of achieving; a couple of days later and with no intention of riding for general classification, he became the first Australian to wear the leader's jersey in all three Grand Tours.
To describe the 30 year-old's talent as immense would not be an understatement: this boy from Sydney's western suburbs has transformed himself from a junior world champion in a track event over three thousand metres to an accomplished road professional of seven years. But even a talent knows his limitations, and in many ways, it takes a champion to recognise and accept them. Which brings us to this year.
"Oh, look, it's been a bit up and down a little bit," McGee lamented to Cyclingnews about his form of late.
"I had a bad crash at Critérium [International] in the second stage in the morning. I thought I got away with it pretty easy even though we were going fairly quick, but I ripped a muscle in my quad [thigh] and had to have five days off, so I've only had two and a half weeks of racing. I did the GP de Denain, which was good, then Amstel was... bad," he laughs. "But I'm on the up."
Asked if he was able to pinpoint why his performance in Holland last Sunday was askew, McGee knew the exact reason: "I've actually been having a lot of problems with asthma and this is the time of year that it really starts to hit me. I basically haven't accepted I'm an asthmatic and forget to take my medication!" he said with a wry smile.
"When I do, it's no problem; it sort of scared me a bit at Amstel because I had a really bad choke, so I need to be a bit careful this time of year. When the summer gets around, I have no more problems."
McGee has decided to skip Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège in favour of resting up for a top prologue performance at next week's Tour de Romandie. It's an event defined in his roots as a cyclist and he's won it before in 2003, holding onto the leader's jersey for two stages before finishing ninth overall. "Yeah, I'm not doing Liège to make sure I'm up and fresh for Romandie with a good prologue - I've been top ten [overall] there before and it's a good week for me. And maybe we'll look at a start in the Giro now; I just went and had a look the other day at the prologue."
Well, what does he think?
"I'll probably throw up at the end of it," McGee smiled, "but it's possible that I could win it."
If he does pull off that prologue victory on May 6 in Seraing, it will be his second time he achieves the feat after doing it the same year he earned his aforementioned results in Romandie, underlining the importance of his next block of racing. Furthermore, the times where he has collapsed after a time trial and almost or actually thrown up, he's done very well in - although this isn't the sort of behaviour we encourage at home.
"Yeah, well, this prologue will squeeze that last little bit out of every rider - but I think I can put it together and I think it's a course suited for me," he said.