Big wheel sells the drug-free message
WITH the 2013 Tour de France starting on Saturday, the big question is: will every rider be drug free?
Brad McGee certainly hopes so.
Recently adding the role of "directeur sportif" for the national elite men's road program to the position of head coach he already performs with the NSW Institute of Sport, McGee has always been vocal about his opposition to doping.
He wrote earnestly in the wake of the Armstrong scandal of how some of the best years of his competitive life were stolen by drug cheats.
"When I started my professional career, I was lucky that I had people who highlighted the risk of drugs for me, and although nothing prepared me for how rife it was, at least I was forewarned and could make the right choices when approached," McGee said.
"That is what I am trying to do with my riders, especially the young guys."
McGee is one of Australia's most successful road competitors. In an illustrious career, he wore the leader's jersey in all three grand tours (Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana). He can also boast a full complement of Olympic medals and a host of successes at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.
Before returning to Australia last year, he spent four years as the directeur sportif for Danish pro team Saxo-Tinkoff. Now the former elite cyclist is hoping to put his experience to good use as he readies the Australian team for big-time competitions.
"I see this role a little like national service," he says, "you are drafted in and expected to deliver for your country. We have a chance here to do a tremendous amount of good, and I'm going to take it.
"I am here to say to these guys that that they can achieve and they can excel and they can absolutely do it without doping. We are determined to make them believe that in their bones."
The first major task is assembling a team for the World Championships in Florence in September, at the same time looking ahead to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year, and of course the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Many of the road riders earmarked for those competitions will be out to impress in this year's Tour de France.
McGee is not alone in his mission, with help on the frontline coming from Brian Stephens, who has been announced by Cycling Australia as the program's European co-ordinator.
"Brian is incredibly experienced and has been based in Austria for a long time," McGee said.
"All the racing in cycling is in Europe - our best athletes are in teams over there and Brian is in a perfect position to observe their progress, to gather information and do all the legwork."