Veteran signs two-year deal with Bannan project
Stuart O'Grady is the latest recruit for Shayne Bannan's GreenEdge project, the veteran signing a two-year deal with the squad hopeful of gaining a UCI ProTour licence for 2012 and beyond.
In a statement provided by the team, O'Grady said that it was an opportunity a long time in the making:
"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," he said.
"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."
The project's financial backer, Gerry Ryan told The Australian last week that: "Stuey has wanted to be a part of this project since we first went public with wanting to put a team at the Tour de France, back in Adelaide last January."
O'Grady spent five seasons with Saxo Bank before moving to Leopard Trek for the 2011 season, along with many of his teammates including the Schleck brothers, Fabian Cancellara and Jens Voigt. The South Australian said that such long-term relationships made the decision to join Bannan at GreenEdge a difficult one.
"I've spent quite a few years supporting the Schleck brothers [Frank and Andy] 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.
The 2007 Paris-Roubaix winner is the perfect fit for the team in its inaugural seasons with Bannan indicating that GreenEdge would be best-placed to focus on the Classics.
"Perhaps in four or five years we'd like to develop into a stage race team, but I think it's important to be realistic about the whole process," the general manager told Cyclingnews earlier this year.
Today's news follows the announcement last week that GreenEdge had secured the services of Jack Bobridge, along with Cameron and Travis Meyer from Garmin-Cervelo, and multiple African champion Daniel Teklehaymanot. Bannan said that O'Grady's experience will prove to be a valuable asset to some of the younger members of the team.
"He can teach our guys stuff on the road that simply can't be communicated from the team car sitting behind the peloton," he explained.
"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."
It's a role that the man himself plans to relish.
"There'll be a lot of young guys on the squad and Shayne [Bannan] understands the need to have someone to guide them," O'Grady said.
"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."