McGee's 'final enticement' to join FDJ results in support for junior riders
By Gerard Knapp
While several top European squads jockeyed late last year to win the attention and signature of Bradley McGee following his impressive debut ride in the Tour de France in 2002, the Sydney-born rider was thinking of home and how he could use his appeal to repay those who helped him get to the elite level.
The result has been a unique decision by the Division 1 Francaise Des Jeux (FDJ) team to invest in the development of talented young riders from McGee's home state in Australia. At a press conference at the Tour Down Under to announce further details on the development squad, McGee said he began to discuss the idea with FDJ's logistics manager Fabrice Vanoli in the 2001 season and "It was one of the major things which made me re-sign with FDJ last year".
Under the agreement - which was sealed late last year (http://www.cyclingnews.com/results/2001/dec01/dec10news.php)- FDJ will provide up to $80,000 assistance per year and work with the NSW Institute of Sport to assist in the development and grooming of talented young riders to assist with their preparation for road racing in Europe.
The development squad will be managed by Rodney McGee, brother of Bradley and also a member of the young Team Pursuit squad that broke the world record and secured the gold in the 1995 World Track Championships in Bogota. Rod McGee is now "back on the bike" and able to train with the emerging riders so he can see how they react on the road and if they have the right attitude to be a team rider. Rod McGee will work under the guidance of Gary Sutton, a former world track champion and head coach of the NSWIS.
The FDJ assistance will be used to provide assistance for travel, clothing, bicycles and accessories for the squad to compete at the elite level. FDJ has also offered to pay cash bonuses to the riders based on their results. Initially, the squad will enter major Australian races, with the Tour of Tasmania being the first road race Rod McGee would like the squad to ride.
He hopes that by the end of 2002 the squad will be able to enter the Herald Sun-Tour in Victoria, normally held in Victoria during October, while the overall aim will be to place at least one rider as a stagiaire for FDJ in the Tour de l'Avenir in France, which was a minimum requirement by the Australians.
Australia is seen as having a great pool of riders, Brad McGee said, and the involvement by FDJ is evidence of their interest in developing riders from the country. Already there is another program operated by the Australian Institute of Sport, headed by national road coach Shayne Bannan, which offers experience in Italy for emerging Australian riders. It is developing close links with Mapei - Quick Step in Italy, which has resulted in talented espoirs such as Michael Rogers and Alan Davis securing contracts with Mapei for 2002.
Brad McGee said he had spoken with Bannan about the aims of both programs, and they agreed that overall the interests of the rider would be paramount and not become competitive.
So far, eight NSW cyclists have been nominated to join the team, of which five will be chosen in early February (two of the eight are currently riding in the Tour Down Under). The eight under consideration are Mark Renshaw, Jono Davis, Chris Sutton, Ashley Humbert, Richard Moffatt, Matthew Farmer, Fernando Duran and Brendan Cato.