The Orica-GreenEdge team announced today that Australian Stuart O'Grady is retiring with immediate effect. Last month, O'Grady stated that this year's Tour de France would not be his farewell, and that he intended to complete his 18th Tour in 2014, but explained today's change of plans.
“I’ve always wanted my career to end with something truly special and this year’s Tour de France has given me that,” O’Grady said in a press release. “We’ve had a great race, and I’m really proud of what we accomplished. 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. I’m extremely happy to have had a chance to do that one more time before I retired.”
O'Grady has started every Tour de France since 1997, racing the majority of his career in an era now clouded by the spectre of EPO use and blood doping, but has always denied that cheating was an option.
In 1998, he won a stage in the Tour and wore the maillot jaune for three days. A report commissioned by a French senate anti-doping investigation is set to release the names of the riders from that Tour de France whose doping control samples were found to contain evidence of EPO use in a research study conducted in 2004.
O'Grady's Tour success continued in 2001 when he wore the yellow jersey for six stages and was part of the winning team time trial with Crédit Agricole.
He was part of the gold-medal Madison team in the 2004 Olympic Games with Graeme Brown, and won Paris-Roubaix in 2007. Yet he also had a bad history of crashes, the worst of which came in the 2007 Tour, when he fractured three vertebrae, among other bones.
“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,” said O’Grady. “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.”
While his compatriot Robbie McEwen retired mid-season last year and moved into a leadership position with the Orica squad, the team made no such mention of O'Grady following suit.
“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,” general manager Shayne Bannan said. “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.”