Stuart O'Grady Re-Signs With ORICA-GreenEDGE for 2014Wed 5 Jun 2013
Stuart O’Grady has re-signed with ORICA-GreenEDGE for the 2014 season. Australia’s first Classics champion, six-time Olympian and inaugural Tour Down Winner will retire after the Tour de France next year.
“I have been getting asked more and more when I’m going to retire,” said O’Grady. “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 has appeared in every Tour de France since he made his debut at La Grand Boucle in 1997. The South Australian has supported three riders, Andy Schleck, Fränk Schleck and Carlos Sastre, to a combined total of six Tour de France overall podium finishes, including Sastre’s 2008 Tour de France victory. With 16 starts, 14 finishes, two stage wins and nine days in yellow to his name, O’Grady is one of the most experienced Grand Tour riders in the peloton.
“This year will be my 17th Tour de France,” said O’Grady. “Next year would be my 18th start if I make the team and get to next year’s tour healthy. This year, I’ll tie the all time record for Tour de France starts. I would set a new record next year, which would be a pretty cool achievement.”
While O’Grady’s personal victories have become less common in the later years of his career, he can still be seen turning himself inside out on the front of the bunch for his teammates. He serves as road captain and has become an integral part of the support and development of the younger, less experienced riders on the team.
“This isn’t a Farewell Tour,” O’Grady said. “That’s my not my style. I’m not sticking around for myself. I’m riding because I want to give back to this team. It’s important to me that I make the time and effort to pass along my information and experience to someone who can step up and fill the road captain role. We’ll be working on that intentionally in the next year.”
“Obviously, you never know what’s around the corner in terms of any plan we’ve put together,” added O’Grady. “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.”
O’Grady repeatedly reiterated how grateful he feels to have spent the last years of his career with an Australian WorldTour team. He admits that it’s not something he expected to see during his time as a professional bike racer.
“I never thought I’d be around to see an Australian team race the Tour de France,” said O’Grady. “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.”
“It was pretty amazing for the first Australian WorldTour team to win their first WorldTour race at the Tour Down Under,” O’Grady continued. “Gerro’s [Simon Gerrans’] win at Milan San Remo was just as satisfying. It’s been a fantastic 18 months. For me, the highlight of it all is getting to be a part of it and passing on as much as my experience as I can to the younger guys.”
O’Grady has enjoyed his role as elder statesmen of the young squad. He finds himself motivated by helping his teammates achieve.
“I’m having a great time helping our younger riders,” he said. “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.”
Happy to have a plan in place for his final year of racing, O’Grady is content to leave his post-race plans unspecified at the moment. He intends to stay involved in the sport although he has yet to decide in what capacity.
“I’m definitely planning on staying involved with cycling after I stop racing, and it’s looking pretty likely that I’ll continue to work with Gerry and the team,” O’Grady explained. “Cycling has been my life in the last 20 odd years. It will be nice to wake up and think about something other than training and suffering and pain. I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and not having to be so selfish on a personal level. I’ve done that for a long time. We have time to find a role for me after retirement. It’s something we can discuss more at a later date.”
“I can say this for certain,” he added. “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.”