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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Flèche Wallonne Cycling News for April 21, 2006

Edited by Anthony Tan

Time to face facts, says McGee

By Anthony Tan

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Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of the Dauphiné Libéré live as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).

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Bradley McGee (Francaise des Jeux)
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

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.

Björn again Leukemans

By Brecht Decaluwé

In yesterday's finale of La Flèche Wallonne, Davitamon-Lotto rider Björn Leukemans tried to catch the favourites off guard, attacking immediately after being dropped then crawling his way back to the lead group with Liberty Seguros' Koldo Gil. In fact, the 28 year-old Belgian did manage to escape and was actually the first rider onto the Mur de Huy, but died a thousand deaths a few hundred metres into one of the deadliest climbs in world cycling.

Nevertheless, he was happy with his 36th place, just 1'15 back from winner Alejandro Valverde: "I felt a lot better than in the Amstel Gold Race," said Leukemans to Cyclingnews. "Now, after an effort, I could recuperate from it; the team doctor said that I only needed some extra sugars."

"I knew the attack wasn't going to lead to victory, but staying in the group wouldn't lead to victory either. The 'Mur' was a bit to hard to get a good result in the sprint uphill. At least I was in the picture... for some moments," he laughed. "Maybe somebody could've joined me, but the guys who could win definitely wouldn't [have] followed me."

Evans still with work to do

By Anthony Tan

Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

Coming off a solid seventh place at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco a week and a half ago, Davitamon-Lotto's Cadel Evans was considered an outside favourite in yesterday's Flèche Wallonne. But the 28 year-old Australian told Cyclingnews that he's still lacking a little before we'll see him in contention for victory.

"Yeah, yeah, it's been good," he said about his current form, "except my time trial in Pais Vasco was about one minute behind what I had hoped for. Otherwise, it's been good progression, and this is really my first test for the year - this week's to see how I'm really going.

Quizzed on the reasons behind the below-par TT performance at Pais Vasco, where he finished in 27th place at almost a minute and a half behind stage winner José Angel Gomez Marchante, the Saunier Duval-Prodir rider also clinching an eleventh-hour overall victory, Evans seemed to have some idea, but wasn't entirely sure. "I fell a bit behind with my time trial training this year just with travel - going to California, doing some testing and things," he said. "That sometimes takes you away from your training and that; I've only ridden one time trial this year and it just didn't come together... it was disappointing."

Equally, Wednesday's performance in the 70th edition of La Flèche Wallonne was some way off his best, finishing well behind in a group of 14 riders, nine minutes and fifteen seconds off Alejandro Valverde's winning time. However, with Evans' primary focus being the Tour de France, he's still got time on his side. Following Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a race he finished fifth in last year, he'll ride two difficult week-long tours to sharpen up his game, beginning next week: "I go to [the Tour de] Romandie after this and [Volta Ciclista a] Catalunya [next], then we'll see how things are going leading into the Tour," said Evans.

Piccolo change for Bellotti

By Anthony Tan

A rider with more immediate concerns is Crédit Agricole's leader for the upcoming Giro d'Italia, Francesco Bellotti. Talking to the 26 year-old from Pescantina near Verona before the start of La Flèche Wallonne, Bellotti was hoping to 'do something' in the mid-week Spring Classic, but succumbed to the might of the Mur de Huy and pulled out before the finish.

He and his team-mate Saul Raisin were down as co-leaders for the Giro, but following Raisin's serious accident at the Circuit de la Sarthe earlier this month that saw him in a coma for over a week, it appears the team's strategy has changed.

"He's better now," commented Bellotti to Cyclingnews on his American team-mate, "but it's impossible to say exactly how much; we all hope that everything is okay. We don't have one leader now; our team will be aggressive and attack, and everyone will try and do something each day."

The Italian, who finished second overall at the Tour de Langkawi in early February, added preparation for his home tour has consisted of just about everything and a little bit more. "Flat, mountains... everything - you need to do prepare everything to be good in the Giro," Bellotti said, who will arrive at the start in Seraing, Belgium on May 6 with modest expectations, adding he would be 'contento' with a top-20 finish when the race concludes at its usual resting place in Milano.

Davis bro's doin' it for themselves

By Anthony Tan

The Davis bros, Allan (L) and Scott,
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

All Aussie cycling fans know they're brothers, although there's a few others that don't. But yes, it's true: Allan and Scott Davis both come from that same small town called Bundaberg in Northern Queensland and same small family that has seen them both turn professional in 2003 and race at the highest level of the sport they love.

And proving that bros like doing things together, even when they're on different teams with 'Alby' at Liberty Seguros and Scott racing for the T-Mobile Team, yesterday's outing at La Flèche Wallonne was a new experience for both. "Yeah, first time," admits Scott, who, at 26 years old, is one year and three months older than his brother.

So how was he feeling less than ten minutes before the start?

"Oh... so far, so good!" laughed Scott nervously. "I actually got the call-up [at the last minute]; I wasn't supposed to do these races because I've got Romandie coming up next week and then going to the Giro, but you can't knock back these Classic races; they're maybe once in a lifetime [opportunity] - and I'll take the opportunity with both hands!" he exclaimed.

At this level, elder brother Allan, although never having done the race before, is the more experienced and successful of the two, and was hoping for a little more after a good ride in last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race. "Commonwealth Games were good for me, then it was straight back into the Classics, Flanders and Roubaix," he said. "They're not really up my alley, but it was the first time I'd ridden the Amstel Gold Race and I really enjoyed it. I had the worker's job to do but I enjoyed the race; hopefully I can give it a go next year, but we'll see what happens today as well.

"It's the first time I've ridden here but the course suits me if I'm on my day, suits my characteristics, so I'll have a go, mate!" smiled Alby. "We've also got a couple of other team-mates, two who finished in the top 10 last year, so we're not a bad team... we've just got to play our cards."

True to his words, Allan's team-mate David Etxebarria, fourth at last year's Flèche Wallonne, was again Liberty's best rider in seventh position. Allan himself rode a solid Flèche, placing himself in a promising counter-attack in the latter half of the race that was eventually caught by the peloton, but still finished a respectable 2'30 behind Alejandro Valverde. Scott was another 50 places down, but was most likely happy just to have finished.

"Never!" was Scott's response when asked if he'd ever ridden the 'Mur' before until yesterday. "Back in Bundy, we have trouble getting a hill, let alone a steep one!"

Acting as sort of a second brother to Scott at T-Mobile is world time trial champion Michael Rogers, who knows both Davis brothers extremely well and can no doubt impart a few words of wisdom if Allan's not around. "Yeah, like you say, we've grown up racing together," said Scott, "so it's awesome having Mick and I together; it brings out the best in both of us, so we're having a great time, we've settled in great."

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