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Stuart O'Grady at this year's Tour de France
Australian veteran battles injury to open 2011 account
Two-time winner of the Tour Down Under, Stuart O'Grady will lead his new Leopard-Trek outfit at this year's Santos Tour Down Under despite breaking two ribs in a skiing incident last month.
The Australian, 37, admits he will not be in contention for the general classification due to the injuries he suffered but he will instead use the event to continue building on his training form gained in November and then move onto the Classics later in the year.
"I think it will be a great team and everyone's excited. The guys have said 'no pressure', but can you please get a result so I'll do everything I can to try and get a result," said O'Grady.
The 2007 Paris-Roubaix champion had been slated to be the team's hope for overall honours at the opening round of the ProTour but the accident hampered his preparations and he conceded last month that his chances of being ready to vie for his third win in the event were extremely slim.
"I was really happy to take on the leadership role and try to get a result for the team; having been the domestique for every race I'm in it was kind of a nice opportunity to come down on Australian soil and actually have a crack for a result," he had stated after his accident last month.
Several weeks later and O'Grady is putting on a brave face heading into what has become a sprinter's event. "I won't be 100 per cent; there's no hiding in this sport, I'll do the best I can. I've got the whole team coming to support me and I hope I can get a result.
"It's a tough call - I really would have like to come here and achieved a top 10 - at the moment if I could pull off a top 10 it would be a miracle," he said.
"It would have been a difficult situation with what is going to be a sprinter's paradise, however. The sprinters make it extremely tough to get near the podium but just having that freedom to go and have a crack excited me, to be honest."
While he won't be in peak condition, it's nothing the Australian hasn't faced in the past, however. "Last year I had much bigger problems and managed to get through the race - this year I have absolutely no concerns about getting through the race but obviously I'm a bit concerned about going for the victory."
O'Grady, along with compatriot William Clarke will take on the 2011 Santos Tour Down Under with team-mates Martin Kristen Mortensen, Davide Vigano, Martin Pedersen, Stefan Denifl and Bruno Manuel Silva Pires.