O’Grady extends contract but will retire after 2014 Tour de France
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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

O’Grady extends contract but will retire after 2014 Tour de France

by VeloNation Press at 6:32 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Fourteen months left for Australian pro, wants to set Tour record and help Orica GreenEdge

Stuart OHe’s been a professional since 1995, making him one of the oldest riders in the peloton. Now Stuart O’Grady has now named the moment when he is likely to call an end to his career. The 39 year old has extended his current contract with the Orica GreenEdge team, carrying him into the 2014 season, but will make his swansong next July in the sport’s biggest race.

“I have been getting asked more and more when I’m going to retire,” he said, announcing his future intentions. “I’m quite relived to have settled it. I’ll race next year, and, if all goes to plan, my last race will be at the Tour de France. I wanted to finish off my career at a race that’s meant a lot to me throughout my time as a professional.

“The Tour has probably made my career. To retire on the Champs-Élysées would be a symbolic way to close things out.”

O’Grady turned pro with the Gan team in 1995 and first rode the Tour two years later. He returned in 1998 and won a stage plus wore the yellow jersey for several days. In the years since he has won Paris-Roubaix, taken another Tour de France stage in 2004 plus the team time trial in 2001, and also triumphed in the HEW Cyclassics, in two editions of the Tour Down Under plus the 2003 national road race championships. He has worn the yellow jersey for a total of nine days in all.

In addition to his personal achievements, O’Grady has also built a career supporting others, backing Carlos Sastre to his 2008 Tour win and also helping Andy and Frank Schleck during their campaigns. He moved to the Orica GreenEdge team prior to the start of last season and now helps in the development of newer professionals.

“I’m having a great time helping our younger riders,” he said, talking about his current role. “It’s a special feeling to help someone else realise their dreams. I’m not here to win anymore. I’m here to help out with tactics and provide leadership on the road. I hope to help others win in the process – maybe today, maybe sometime in the future. It’s a different role, but I like it.

“I never thought I’d be around to see an Australian team race the Tour de France. This has been a dream come true. To finish my career on an Australian team with Shayne Bannan and Gerry Ryan on board is something special. I’ve known those guys my entire career. All the pieces have fallen into place, and I feel privileged and grateful to race for them on this team. I can’t thank Gerry enough for what he has done for all of us.”

He said that he intends to continue in the sport after his retirement, with a slot working with the Orica GreenEdge team the most likely option. Before then, though, he’s got more racing to do.

“This year will be my 17th Tour de France. Next year would be my 18th start if I make the team and get to next year’s Tour healthy,” he said. “This year, I’ll tie the all time record [with George Hincapie - ed.] for Tour de France starts. I would set a new record next year, which would be a pretty cool achievement.”

However he emphasises that he’s not sticking around for that reason alone, saying that his contract extension doesn’t represent a kind of Farewell Tour. Instead, he said that he’s determined to give back as much as possible to the team in the fourteen months ahead, helping both the individual riders and also assisting in pinpointing and shaping the next road captain of the squad.

“Obviously, you never know what’s around the corner in terms of any plan we’ve put together,” he said, acknowledging that there is always an element of uncertainty in sport. “Hopefully it all works out. I think it will feel really good to do my final Tour Down Under, my final Classics campaign, my final Tour de France and to know that each is my last. It’s really motivating to me to think about, and I’ll definitely go into this next year at my best.”

Although the transition from an active to a retired athlete can be intimidating, O’Grady states that he’ll give the remainder of his career one hundred percent, then stop with no regrets. “I can say this for certain,” he said. “I’m happy to continue for the next 13 months, and then it’s all over. Once I hang it up, it will hung up very high and very well. There will be no comeback.”

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