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Charity begins at home, but training for the Tour begins in January

News feature, November 15, 2004

Brad McGee "good for a top-10 push" in 2005

Among the busy Christmas shoppers and office workers in Sydney's Martin Place on Tuesday, Olympic gold medallist Brad McGee continued his giving ways in conjunction with another Australian sports star, Wallabies captain George Gregan, with a function to benefit the Neurology Department of the Westmead Children's Hospital.

McGee donated one of his Tour de France yellow jerseys, framed and surrounded by photos of the multiple Tour and Giro stage winner and Olympic gold medallist, as an item to be auctioned to raise funds for the hospital.

The cyclist was delighted to make the donation to the hospital and particularly to have Gregan, captain of the Australian Rugby Union team, accept the gift. Gregan is a very well-known sporting figure in Australia who became closely affiliated with the neurology department after his three-year-old son, Max, was diagnosed with epilepsy.

A father of two, McGee makes regular efforts to donate his memorabilia to the Sydney hospital. The lunchtime crowd relaxed in the summer sun and watched young McGee-NSWIS riders Dave Tanner and Richard Moffatt spin away on rollers while television journalist Mike Tomalaris gave away copies of the SBS' Tour de France DVD.

The tour starts now

After the formalities, it was an opportunity to speak to McGee about his plans for 2005. Unlike the variety of goals he set for 2004 - Giro, Tour, Olympics - for next year he is concentrating on the Tour de France and this means not riding in the Giro d'Italia.

McGee told Cyclingnews with a wide grin, "I'm banned from racing in May", in reference to his effort this year when he somewhat unexpectedly completed the Giro. He entered Italy's three-week stage race in May with an initial plan to withdraw once the race hit the serious mountains. But he had excellent form and went on to finish the race and in so doing, became the second Australian to finish in the top 10 of Italy's major stage race. (Michael Wilson was the first, back in the 80s.)

McGee said he planned to "race hard until (the Tour of) Romandie, which takes us into May", but after that he will concentrate on reconnaissance of the 2005 Tour de France route. He said many of the climbs - particularly in the Pyrenees - were unfamiliar to him, especially the stages where several major climbs have to be scaled in one day.

His focus on the Tour for 2005 stems from his strong performance in this year's Giro, even if his decision to finish the race was questioned by some observers as possibly affecting his performance at the Tour and then the Olympics. McGee secured a gold medal as part of the Australian team pursuit squad, but finished second to a very strong Bradley Wiggins in the individual pursuit, his pet event.

To McGee, however, his silver medal in Athens now gives him a target for the Beijing Olympics and before that, he's looking forward to concentrating on riding for the overall classification in the 2005 Tour.

"I've always dreamed of riding for GC ever since I started riding the Tour; I've always said that until I think I'm good for a top ten push, I'll just maintain my objective as taking stages. That's now changed, and it's come from the Giro."

McGee believes he can still improve in the mountains and is confident he will have the support of his teammates to get him to the bottom of the climbs in the best possible shape. After that point in the crucial mountain stages, he realises the only answer to any attacks by the pure climbers will be in his own legs.

However, it's still family first. He is travelling back to Monaco on January 5 to help daughter Tahlia settle into school life and any trip back to Australia is still up in the air. He was unsure whether he would be riding the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under in January. "It's up to my director to see if I make the trip - the decision will be made in the next week or so."

Development squad

Part of McGee's team ethic is working with the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) to assist in the development of young riders who can then go on to join the squad in France.

Hence the appearance at the launch of McGee-NSWIS riders like Tanner and Moffatt, who, at 20 years of age, are benefiting from McGee's involvement in the NSWIS program that has already fostered talented riders such as Mark Renshaw, who is now back in training after a serious back operation in October (look for a more detailed interview with the young rider soon on Cyclingnews).

For McGee, however, he's hoping his donation of the TdF yellow jersey will result in a large cheque for the Neurology Department of the Westmead Children's Hospital after the sought-after item is auctioned.

Keeping his eye on training, McGee left the press event in the middle of Sydney's CBD as he arrived - on his Lapierre bicycle - and headed off to another session of specific training with former Australian track cycling representative, Tim Lyons, a member of Australia's 1996 Atlanta Olympics squad.

McGee said he was limiting his training rides to three hours or less while he concentrates on what's called "core strength conditioning work" at the Sydney gym, Lifestyle Changes.

Apparently the word is spreading among the elite cyclists, as fellow Athens team pursuit gold medallists, Graham Brown and Stephen Wooldridge, are also understood to be doing the specific gym work prior to the 2005 season.

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