After a hard-fought second place on stage 2 of this year's Vuelta a Espana, Australian rider Brad McGee became the only Australian rider to wear the leader's jersey in all three Grand Tours. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes spoke with a dazed but happy McGee after capturing the leader's gold jersey.
Bradley McGee made history after Sunday's stage of the Vuelta a Espana when he became the first Australian rider to hold the leader's jersey in each of the Grand Tours. McGee took Tour de France yellow when he won the prologue in 2003, the Giro d'Italia pink when he did likewise last season and took the missing part of that series on Sunday when he wrested the Maillot Oro off the shoulders of Saturday's winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank) with a strong ride on the second stage.
The 29 year old FDJeux rider was part of a select group which forged ahead of the peloton on the second category climb of the Alto de San Jerónimo. He made his move on the descent down to the finish in Cordoba, overhauling stage leader Leonardo Bertagnolli (Cofidis) with six kilometres to go, driving it hard towards the finish, but losing out on any chance of winning their sprint when he cramped close to the line. The two were caught right at the finish by a five-man chasing group, but Bertagnolli and McGee had just enough in hand to hold on for first and second on the stage. Somewhat dramatically, the latter collapsed 100 metres after the finish, his leg muscles in complete spasm. A soigneur had to work on them for several minutes before McGee could get to his feet, climb back on his bike and make his way towards the podium.
"My legs totally locked up with cramp with about two kilometres to go. I just couldn't pedal; I was faking it the whole way," he told Cyclingnews, while still lying on the tarmac. "I'm not surprised that happened...it was 44 degrees today. Even my handlebars were scorching. It may have been a little hotter at the Tour Down Under before, but it was still very, very hard out there."
Had McGee not cramped, he may have been able to win the stage. But his first priority was to get the leader's jersey after missing out by a very close margin on Saturday. Satisfied in doing that, he said yesterday evening that he hadn't too disappointed about the prologue result. "I was spewing up for half an hour after the race so I know that I couldn't have gone any harder. Okay, I didn't win, but I didn't mess up either. I gave it all I had."
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