Experienced campaigner Stuart O’Grady has signed a two-year contract with GreenEdge, the nascent Australian team which is aiming for a UCI WorldTour license starting in 2012. O’Grady, a former winner of Paris-Roubaix and one of the most respected Grand Tour riders in the peloton, said he could not miss out on the opportunity to race with a team from his homeland.
“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 in a statement released by GreenEdge. “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.”
Australia’s steady rise has best been encapsulated by Cadel Evans, the 2009 world road race champion who last month became the first Australian winner of the Tour de France. O’Grady is currently part of the Leopard team that helped Luxembourg brothers Andy and Frank Schleck take second and third place respectively behind Evans in Paris. Having spent many years with teammates with whom he also spent five years for five seasons at Saxo Bank, O’Grady admitted it wasn’t an easy decision to make.
“I’ve spent quite a few years supporting the Schleck brothers at the Tour de France and Fabian (Cancellara) in the classics and doing that job alongside Jens Voigt we’ve been like a family. It’s been a privilege racing with those guys and leaving Leopard-Trek to join GreenEdge has been the hardest decision of my career,” the South Australian said.
Last week GreenEdge signed up and coming talents Jack Bobridge and brothers Cameron and Travis Meyer from Garmin-Cervelo, and multiple African champion Daniel Teklehaymanot. While that quartet are seen as the team’s future, team director Shayne Bannan is counting on O’Grady to pass on his valuable insight and experience to help steer them through the jungle that is the professional peloton.
“He can teach our guys stuff on the road that simply can’t be communicated from the team car sitting behind the peloton,” explained 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 added: “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’ve think I bring plenty of experience at steering the ship.”