Brad McGee interview: excited about Porte, reassured about Bellis
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brad McGee interview: excited about Porte, reassured about Bellis

by Shane Stokes at 1:23 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Saxo Bank directeur sportif talks about two riders for whom 2011 will be very important

Bradley McGeeFormer Australian pro Brad McGee has said that he believes his compatriot Richie Porte has an extremely bright future in the sport, and expects him to have a very strong 2011 due to the work he is currently putting in as preparation for the season.

McGee is a directeur sportif with the Saxo Bank team and keeps close tabs on the riders and what they are doing. He is clearly impressed with what Porte has already achieved, and the hunger he is showing in the winter months.

“We are astonished by the fact that he has developed so fast. It has been almost impossible to keep up with him,” he told VeloNation. “He has been that good. You have to keep rewriting the script for the young kid, which is just wonderful, really.

“In 2011, he is ready to step right up in to the mainstream, and definitely has a big target set on the Tour. There is still a little bit of development to go because he hasn’t been exposed to everything. We would like to see him have a crack at some of the smaller stage races.”

Porte moved to the Saxo Bank team at the end of 2009, having spent two years with the Praties team in Australia. He was known as a talented rider, but even the most optimistic supporter probably didn’t envisage what he would achieve inside the first few months of his contract.

The first inkling of his strength came in early May when he won the stage three time trial in the Tour de Romandie en route to tenth overall. He went on to ride his first Grand Tour and made the important break to L'Aquila on stage 11. That catapulted him into the Maglia Rosa of race leader, which he held for two more days. Many expected him to fade in the high mountains but he climbed well there, doing enough to secure a superb seventh overall when the race finished in Verona.

Porte later rode strongly in other events such as the Tour of Denmark (second in the time trial), the Eneco Tour of Benelux (fourth in the TT, fourth overall), the Tour of Britain (fourth overall) and the world road race championship time trial (again, fourth). It was a superb first year at the top level.

Reassuringly, he hasn’t let it go to his head. Instead, he’s been training hard, determined that next season will be even more spectacular. McGee sounds impressed by the dedication he has shown.

“He stayed in Europe, he hasn’t gone back to Australia yet. He has just had his head down, working like you have never known a professional athlete to work in the off season,” he said, sounding impressed. “Again, it is hard holding him back, he is raring to go.

“Richie has been working very well here with a sports trainer, Leigh Bryan, a fellow Tasmanian, who I used in my career and a lot of riders have as well. He’s been doing a lot of gym work, a lot of swimming, a lot of different cross training stuff, plus a little bit of bike every now and then.

“If he continues on with what we have seen last year and his work ethic now, then you can expect big things from him next year.”

Porte is, of course, a former triathlete and so swimming syncs perfectly with what he already knows. McGee describes him as someone who, “really enjoys having a dip,” saying that the pool is quite therapeutic for him and something that he sometimes uses between races as a stress reliever.

Doing regular exercise in the off season is something which can be very good at maintaining fitness. It’s also useful in preventing the rider easing back too much and putting on weight; even though Porte is quite a small-framed rider, McGee states that he carries a “little bit of puppy fat,” and so exercising well now should make it easier to hit a good race weight for key events during the season.

Richie Porte“The trick is initially to really mix up what he is doing for the pre season,” he explains. “The amount of work he needs would just be killing if he had to do it all on the bike. So you just have to got to be a bit creative with the whole thing, and then just pop him up for the right races at the right time next year.”

“He is so resilient, so efficient on the bike. You have to realise that he just needs to be worked in the right way to get down to his race fitness…it is a good thing that he is so resilient.”

It’s also something that could help him greatly in three week Grand Tours, which are all about recovery and physical and mental toughness. The Giro hinted at a very bright future: his second Grand Tour, which he’ll hope is the Tour de France, should confirm his ability and give an indictation as to how high he can aim in the future.

Bellis showing good signs:

Another rider that McGee is keeping close tabs on is the Briton Jonny Bellis. He finished third in the 2007 Under 23 world road race championships, but then crashed very badly last year off his scooter and spent several weeks in a coma. Bellis had a tough 2010 season but, after an operation to fix a hernia which was affecting his breathing, he is now making some decent progress.

“He seems to be moving in the right direction,” McGee disclosed, elaborating on what he told VeloNation yesterday. “It has been a long road back from his injuries, now it is proving to be just as long road back to race form, to professional cycling form.”

The difficulty of returning was seen in the Tour of Britain, which he started as his first stage race back, but then pulled out on the opening day. His lack of racing was a factor there, and so too the infernal pace set on the first stage. “The hernia was one thing, but the style of the race was as bad as situation as you could get,” McGee admitted. “We knew we were taking a risk coming into Britain, but it was a risk we were prepared to take, just to get him back into the swing of things, pinning a number on, being with the boys in the bunch, in the hotel and the bus. Things like that. It was a shame that he didn’t go any further, but he still got something out of that exercise.”

Bellis told VeloNation that breathing difficulties were amongst the biggest obstacles facing him in the race. He had the hernia operation afterwards and says that things are far better now.

McGee believes he is now over the physical effects of his accident. “The hernia was the last piece of the puzzle, as far as the injury goes and the ongoing saga,” he stated. “Apparently that’s all gone through well. He suffered a little bit because of the operation, but it has now healed up as was expected. He is now turning the legs over a lot easier. Breathing was definitely one of his biggest problems when he was coming back.”

At this point in time, the Australian believes it is simply a question of clocking up training and racing kilometres, re-accustoming his body to competing at the top level. That will be reassuring to Bellis, and so too his family, friends and fans, who are all willing him back to the standard his natural ability warrants.

He’s still got work ahead, but McGee expects that things should slot back into place.

“I think if he can get his power back and his general level of race fitness, there is not going to be a problem,” he stated. “I made that call last year when I had him down here in Monaco for a few weeks. Apart from his suffering physically from the exercise of riding - and that was mainly from his breathing - he was fine to go. We had him out with the boys in small bunches, we had him behind the motorbike, doing quite long rides….every other box has been ticked.

“The fact that he couldn’t keep up [in races] was because he couldn’t breathe. So hopefully with the hernia done and another few months of good, solid build-up training in his legs, he is ready to go into a normal pre-season and then come up into a normal ladder of form increase into next year’s race season.”

Jonny BellisHis suggestion is that he has turned a corner, and now it is just a question of working hard. “I can’t see any major obstacle or hurdle that is in his way at the moment, he has just got to continue on with what he is doing,” he asserted. “He now should be at a normal level relative to most of his adversaries in the peloton. I’m hoping he will just step up into the season and be able to do a normal programme. He has to be exposed to the early camps, be exposed to the early races and then you build up from there.”

McGee stated yesterday that Bellis would commence racing in the Challenge Ciclista a Mallorca races in February. That will give both of them an estimation of his form, but he’ll get early feedback on his condition in the current training camp plus the one to be held in Spain in January.

So too will Porte, who will be keen to see if the hard work he has done in the off-season has helped him maintain a good level before really knuckling down with the on-bike training. The 2011 season will be an important one for both of the young riders, who are coming from a vastly different 2010 to each other, but both aiming to get the best out of themselves in the months ahead.


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