Brad McGee: A Quick Q&A
One of the directeur sportifs for the Saxo Bank-SunGard team was quietly waiting at the side of the stage as the squad’s pre-Tour press conferences was being conducted. We spoke with Brad McGee to get his thoughts on two riders he’s worked closely with in recent years – Andy and Alberto…
By Rob Arnold
Q. How do you compare the last few years – can you talk about working with Andy and Alberto?
A. “It’s easy to offer an appraisal of how it is to work with both of them. It’s a nightmare to look after any favourite at the Tour because it’s just a circus every single day – every minute of every day. With Andy it was difficult in July. But with Alberto it’s like that every day of the year. It doesn’t matter if it’s January at a race in southern Spain or it’s a preparation ride in the Alps – every day is like this [he says gesturing at the crowd of photographers fighting for a shot of Contador].
“You’ve got to be constantly prepared for it or you just get caught out.”
But Andy didn’t have that at the Tour?
“Not at this magnitude, no. When he presented himself or did certain things, then he got some attention. But with Alberto, they chase him down and follow him. It’s amazing.”
How do you put systems in place to manage that?
“You’ve got to have good people around, you’ve got to think two steps ahead, you’ve got to have an out… it’s almost like being a body guard has become part of the curriculum.”
Anglophones are used to seeing the pressure that Armstrong was put under. If you were to compare the two multiple winners of the recent generation, who do you think was put under more pressure?
“I think Armstrong reveled in it – the exposure and the media nightmare that surrounds such a big name. But this fella [Alberto] doesn’t look for it, but it’s there but he handles it very well. It’s hard to say who is worse off from the situation but I believe Lance went for it, Alberto just deals with it.
“At the national championships last weekend it got a little bit emotional. People started really believing they had a right to be there helping him warm up and they were touching him and trying to get closer. We had to put four police around him when he was on his warm-up bike otherwise we just couldn’t get the job done.
“The fans are not being dangerous but they’re so into it and they’re so emotional, and so supportive – at the end of the day – and any crowd can be a bit difficult to control and it can get a bit out of hand pretty quickly.”
You know Andy well but he’s had a relatively tame build-up to the Tour compared with Alberto. What are you expecting from him?
“I haven’t watched him much, honestly. I personally haven’t come across him in 2011 yet because he’s been on a different program to me. You could say that it’s a bit quiet compared to Alberto who has just won the Giro – so he’s put himself up there in the spotlight… but knowing Andy from the past, he just rolls along with the punches and pops up at the right time when he’s called for. He’ll definitely show something we haven’t seen all year – he’ll show that in the Tour. You can’t write him off, that’s for sure.”