Stuart O’Grady excited to join GreenEdge, admits it’s difficult to leave Leopard Trek setup
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Monday, August 08, 2011

Stuart O’Grady excited to join GreenEdge, admits it’s difficult to leave Leopard Trek setup

by VeloNation Press at 6:12 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Experienced veteran to play crucial mentor role in new Australian team

Stuart OHaving recently signed some very important young talent, the Australian GreenEdge team has balanced that out by bringing on board Stuart O’Grady, one of the most experienced riders in the international peloton. The 38 year old has agreed to ride for the team in 2012 and will have an very important role in guiding young Australians Jack Bobridge, Travis Meyer and Cameron Meyer, as well as the Eritrean rider Daniel Teklehaimanot.

The quartet has an average age of just over 22 years, and will get important in-race direction from O’Grady. “He can teach our guys stuff on the road that simply can’t be communicated from the team car sitting behind the peloton,” said GreenEdge general manager Shayen Bannan.

“And you don’t stay at the top end of any sport for as long as Stuart has without doing something right. He won a silver medal at the Olympics in 1992 when Travis Meyer and Jack Bobridge were only three-years-old, so there’s a lot he can teach our younger guys.”

O’Grady confesses to being torn about the move, having been an important part of the Saxo Bank SunGard and Leopard Trek setups in recent years. He joined CSC, Saxo Bank’s predecessor, in 2006 and became a very important part of that structure. He finished second overall in the Tour of Denmark then and won Paris-Roubaix the following season; since then, he has formed a close bond with riders such as Fabian Cancellara, Frank and Andy Schleck and Jens Voigt, and accompanied these riders when they signed for the new Leopard Trek setup prior to 2011.

He articulated the struggle this morning when he commented on the move on his Twitter feed. “It’s been the toughest decision of my life leaving Leopard. But all my team-mates respect my decision. I’ve been a loyal team-mate and would ride thru brick walls for those boys. Now it’s time to give my experience to a new and exciting Oz team.

“Gonna miss my roomy Fabian (room-mate Fabian Cancellara – ed.) and turning myself inside out for the Schlecks, but it’s been a fantastic adventure that I will NEVER forget.”

However he explained elsewhere the reason why he felt that difficult move made sense. “There’ll be a lot of young guys on the squad and Shayne (Bannan) understands the need to have someone to guide them,” he explained.

“There’s no point having the biggest and shiniest ship in the ocean if you don’t have a captain to steer it and I think I bring plenty of experience at steering the ship.”

His experience is certainly beyond question; he’s ridden fifteen Tours de France, and was part of the team which helped Carlos Sastre win the race in 2008. He’s also backed Andy Schleck to his second places in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and, on a personal level, has taken two stage victories, wore the yellow jersey on several occasions, and competed in five Olympic Games.

In addition to that, O’Grady has taken Olympic gold, won the Tour of Britain, the Tour Down Under, the Herald Sun Tour and stages in many of cycling’s top stage races. It’s an impressive palmares, to say the least.

Still has ambition, especially for Paris-Roubaix:

O’Grady doesn’t want anyone to think that his move to the team represents a winding down of his career. He’s clearly older than before and has taken less wins in recent years but, depending on the final lineup of the team, there is a chance that he will have greater personal freedom than in recent seasons. He certainly emphasises that he is still hungry for success, wanting to both help others learn but also to nab more big results for himself.

“I’ve still got ambitions in the big one-day Classics, particularly Paris-Roubaix,” he said. “I know the notebook Fabian Cancellara uses in Roubaix because we came up with it together. There’ll be plenty of races the younger guys can go for, but that’s my major personal goal,” he said.

Races such as the Tour of Flanders, Het Volk and Gent-Wevelgem are also likely to be on his wish list.

But those personal results aside, he said that the overall project and what it represents is a huge motivation for him.

“To ride for an Australian team has been a dream of mine since I turned pro way back in 1995. I wasn’t sure such a team would come around before I retired but I’m glad it has,” O’Grady said.

The team is aiming to become the first-ever squad from the country to hold a UCI ProTeam licence. Pegasus Racing was unsuccessful in its application last year, but many expect GreenEdge to put in a much stronger application and, ultimately, get the nod.

O’Grady believes the step up is a logical one. “I’ve been racing for a long time and seen the evolution of Australian cycling from guys like Phil Anderson, Neil Stephens and Patrick Jonker to myself as part of the generation that followed and now we’ve got an impressive group of young riders coming through.

“For a country where cycling is a relatively small sport the progress in such a short period of time has been incredible,” he stated.

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