Stuart O’Grady retires from professional cycling one year earlier than planned
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Monday, July 22, 2013

Stuart O’Grady retires from professional cycling one year earlier than planned

by VeloNation Press at 11:13 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
End of an era as former Paris-Roubaix winner says its time to hang up his wheels

Stuart OBringing forward his plans by one year, Stuart O’Grady has made the surprise decision to retire from professional cycling as of immediate effect.

The former Tour de France yellow jersey wearer and stage winner had recently confirmed he would call it quits after riding the race one more time in 2014, but has now decided that the successful second Tour for the Orica GreenEdge team gives him a good platform to go out on top.

“I’ve always wanted my career to end with something truly special and this year’s Tour de France has given me that,” he said, confirming the news. “We’ve had a great race, and I’m really proud of what we accomplished.”

The team won stage three with Simon Gerrans and then defended that yellow jersey in the best possible way by winning the following day’s team time trial in Nice. Daryl Impey subsequently took over the race lead when Gerrans deliberately hung back in the finale of stage six in order to pass it on to him.

That opening week was a huge moment for the team, particularly as it fell short of taking a stage win in its debut Tour in 2012.

O’Grady said that those moments were very special ones for him. “Winning a stage and standing on the podium with all my teammates after the team time trial in Nice was a dream come true for me this late in my career, and to be able to defend the yellow jersey for Simon [Gerrans] and Daryl [Impey] was special,” he said. “I’m extremely happy to have had a chance to do that one more time before I retired.

“Having done all this, I’m happy to say that I’ve had my run. Originally, I wanted to keep going, but I’ve kept thinking that this is the year. We reached big goals as a team at the Tour, and I’m proud to finish my career after an amazing experience with an incredible team.”

He said that age and those closest to him were also factors in the earlier-than-expected stop. “I’m turning 40 very soon, and I’ve realized there are things in my life that I want to prioritize. My family has helped me make this decision,” he said. “It’s been 23 years of top level performing and 19 years of professional racing, so it’s time to move on.”

Orica GreenEdge general manager Shayne Bannan makes clear that the team is indebted to O’Grady and would have been behind him continuing until 2014, as was originally planned.

“It’s impossible to sum up everything that Stuart has given cycling, but a few things stand out,” he explained. “His commitment to the sport and to his team has been immense. He’s been a huge resource and a fantastic rider for us to work with. To have that kind of dedication at this point in his career shows a lot about his character.

“We respect his decision and even if we wanted to keep him, we knew that he had been thinking this after the team time trial win,” Bannan added “Bowing out after a legendary career like his has been a hard decision for him, but we’re proud to say that he was part of starting up this team and set the bar for high ambitions from day one.”

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 in addition to being its road captain, he has been helping in the development of newer professionals.

Competing in this year’s Tour saw him tie the record of seventeen starts, as shared with George Hincapie. On June 5th he and the team announced that he had signed a new contract to do one more season, and that he wanted to set the record of eighteen starts.

That now won’t happen due to his unexpected retirement.

“I have a lot of great memories to look back upon, and I’m happy to pull the pin at a point where I still feel strong, healthy and competitive,” he said.

“I’ve had some bad crashes along the way, but it’s the great moments – like this year’s Tour de France – that I’ll always remember. Above all, I would like to thank all the fans, my team and my family for always cheering for me and for all the great support throughout my career. It has made me feel appreciated and has given me profound joy for simply doing my job.”

 

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