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McGee tips Rogers as first Tour winner from Oz

Noirmoutier, France, July 2 (AFP) - Bradley McGee might be engaged in his own battle to boost his overall performance on the Tour de France but that has not stopped him tipping Michael Rogers to become the first Australian winner of the yellow jersey in Paris. McGee, who won the prologue at the 2003 Tour for his Francaise des Jeux team, has spent the last few campaigns in July helping teammate Baden Cooke in the bunch sprints. But after a long, hard 10 months year of climbing in the mountains in a bid to better prepare himself for this year's race, the 29-year-old New South Wales rider

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By Justin Davis, Agence France Presse

Noirmoutier, France, July 2 (AFP) – Bradley McGee might be engaged in his own battle to boost his overall performance on the Tour de France but that has not stopped him tipping Michael Rogers to become the first Australian winner of the yellow jersey in Paris.

McGee, who won the prologue at the 2003 Tour for his Francaise des Jeux team, has spent the last few campaigns in July helping teammate Baden Cooke in the bunch sprints.

But after a long, hard 10 months year of climbing in the mountains in a bid to better prepare himself for this year’s race, the 29-year-old New South Wales rider will leave those duties to his other teammates as he chases his dream of trying to finish in the top ten.

“I’ll be serving more as a guide to Baden in the way in to the sprints, but that’s where I’ll leave it,” McGee told AFP ahead of Saturday’s race-opening time trial from Fromentine to Noirmoutier. “I need to save my own energy for the mountains where I want to be able to race at the front with the race’s best climbers. I’ve been working hard since last October and I couldn’t be happier with my progress.”

McGee said he is delighted that Australia is represented by a record 10 riders this year.

“It’s great, it just shows the depth of Australian cycling,” he said.

Australian cyclists have been represented on the world’s biggest race since the early days, although it was really Phil Anderson’s presence in Europe and on the Tour in the 1980s that was the stepping stone for many of today’s Aussies.

In the past 10 years, the likes of Robbie McEwen, Stuart O’Grady and McGee have carried the torch, although up until fairly recently there have been no real contenders for the race’s main prize, the yellow jersey.

But that has all changed. Rogers, the reigning world time trial champion who will soon leave Quick Step for the T-Mobile team of Jan Ullrich, has been groomed for success on the race’s general classification for a few years.

Former mountain bike champion Cadel Evans, of the Davitamon team, also has Tour-winning potential although he is rather injury prone and question marks have been asked about his own confidence in the abilities which almost brought him a Giro d’Italia crown in 2002.

McGee would love to throw his hat in there too, although he admits Rogers is a better bet.

“Things have changed in Australian cycling in the past 10 years or so, I suppose it’s only natural after the success we’ve had with stages and the green jersey that someone would emerge to go for the yellow jersey,” he added. “It’s good to know that one of these days one of us could win the yellow jersey, and that can only have a good effect on the other Aussies. In reality my charge is a little bit late. I’m not too sure about Cadel so I would have to say Mick has the best chance of winning the yellow jersey.

“His move to T-Mobile if it’s confirmed can only be good for him. He’ll have good support there.”

McGee’s team manager Marc Madiot meanwhile has had to bow to his team leader’s request to aim for the general classification.

The former two-time winner of Paris-Roubaix is a hard man to please, but admitted that a change in McGee’s mentality had helped to change his ideas.

“Our main aim is to win a stage on the race, that’s paramount,” Madiot told AFP. “After that, it’s up to Brad and (Frenchman) Sandy Casar to see if they can launch a decent challenge on the general classification. If it’s going to happen, it will come. Brad has worked hard this year, but the main thing that has changed for me is his mentality. And that’s one of the most important things if you’re going to challenge for the yellow jersey.”