One of the first things Caleb Ewan did upon his return to Australia from September's Worlds, where he won a silver medal in the men's U23 race, was to meet with his coach Brad McGee and chat about the season gone and to come.
Joining them for the catch up at a small café in Bowral, a rural town in the Southern Highlands south of Sydney in NSW where 20-year-old Ewan hails from, was Italian Australian Institute of Sport sports scientist Paolo Menaspà. By the time they had finished, one major change had already taken place – McGee was no longer Ewan's coach.
With Ewan's Under 23 days behind him and his first full professional season with Orica-GreenEdge to come, there was no way that McGee could continue as coach.
With McGee being the national men's elite road coach and selector and the versatile pocket rocket Ewan now almost certain to come into reckoning for future elite Australian teams, there would have been a distinct "conflict of interest" for McGee.
With Menaspà the good work continues
Ewan will now work solely under the wing of Menaspà who during McGee's watch still steered the Australian rider's preparation, as he has with other Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy riders. "As Australian head coach and with Caleb on the long list of potential national team riders, I have to be careful there," McGee told Cyclingnews.
"I can't coach any of those athletes. As national selector it's a conflict of interest."
McGee said that because of the importance of his and Menaspà's discussion with Ewan last month, he waited until after the season to have it in the calm of Bowral.
"That is why I spent time in October, away from the hustle and bustle of it all in down town Bowral over a couple of long coffees," McGee said. "The most important thing is that [Ewan] is well catered for and feels confident in the support he is going to get.
"I am more than encouraged with how [Orica-GreenEdge] have set up and prepared the race program for him for next year. The general support and direction is fantastic.
"It is as good as I could have hoped. It's also in my interest [as national selector] that they are all tracking well and improving, but I can't solely focus on any one [rider]."
According to the AIS website, Menaspà earned a Masters in sports science at the Universita degli Studi di Milano and provides physiological support for the AIS and Cycling Australia high performance male endurance programme for road and track.
McGee said Menaspà has already had a significant impact on Ewan's development during his days as an Under 23 rider on the Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy team.
"Paolo has been a big part of the Under 23 program since Caleb has been there, so [his appointment as his regular trainer from now on at Orica-GreenEDGE] is more about re-badging really … He is a sports scientist and very well in touch. I rate him."
McGee said until now his own role as Ewan's coach had been more about "getting him through the pre-season" and that once Ewan was in Europe he was "under the guidance" of Menaspà" while: "I just took a back seat and monitored from a far."
Australian teams to come
With time having passed since the Worlds in Ponferrada, Spain, McGee said he is confident about Australia's prospects in future World's and the 2016 Olympics.
"It was all very encouraging," McGee said of this year's world titles in which Rohan Dennis was an impressive fifth in the men's elite time trial and Simon Gerrans won silver in the road race. "It was great, but now I realise that the real work starts now."
McGee said he had no regrets about Gerran falling one place short of winning the world title that went to Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski who soloed to a superb win.
"You have to celebrate the amazing things that happened there," McGee said.
"'Gerro' had been in outstanding condition, along with all the other Australian riders. "They all presented themselves in top nick. What I admired most was how they all co-ordinated their efforts. They were very clear in what they were doing as individuals and as a collective. They made fantastic decisions about the philosophy and strategy we had all worked on. That was in the heat of battle, 200km into a world title race. I applaud that. I look forward to the next couple of years in the World Championships."
McGee can picture a team for next year's World's at Richmond in the United States, but he is concerned about when he can start thinking of his 2016 Olympic line-up.
"We are still waiting for final confirmation of the [Games] road course," McGee said. "It went one way. Now there has been a re-coil on that. I am waiting for it to be locked in stone before I go too far."
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer on The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media)
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