Stuart O’Grady is focusing on getting racing kilometres back in his legs at this week’s Tour Down Under, with the local rider counting himself out of contention for this year’s race.
O’Grady fought a close battle with eventual winner Allan Davis at last year’s event, but off the back of a bout of pneumonia, he is simply looking to rebound in time for the Spring Classics.
“I really haven’t done enough preparation to be ready for Tour Down Under, I’ve only done about 16 training rides in nearly two months,” said O’Grady. “I’m a long, long way off what I would have usually done for the race and a long way off what my competitors have done.
“Even though I’ve said I haven’t had great form in the past but have been able to use experience to stay up there, this year I just haven’t got the power,” he added. “I won’t have the power on the climbs to stay up there, definitely not on Willunga, so my goal here is just to try finish each stage and just spend hours on the bike. That’s life; I’ve just got to take this Tour Down Under as a stepping stone now to get ready for the Classics.”
O’Grady has won the Tour Down Under on two occasions and is usually riding strongly at this time of year. This time around the Paris-Roubaix winner is just happy to be healthy and back racing with a clear run to the Spring Classics.
“I’m feeling fine, my health is back to 100 percent,” he said. “It’s been a pretty turbulent six weeks, with my family’s health, me getting pneumonia was like the cherry on the cake. I’m just looking forward to 2010.”
O’Grady had a successful mid-section to his 2009 season, delivering Andy Schleck to the Tour de France podium and assisting in Cadel Evans’ International Cycling Union World Road Championship victory. It was however bookended by two separate, difficult periods for the rider.
“When you look back I had a pretty nasty crash in Sanremo which meant I missed all the classics, that was pretty frustrating,” he said. “Other than that the Tour was good, the World Championships were good, but then the end of the season definitely didn’t go as planned.”
In addition to contracting pneumonia at the end of 2009 O’Grady was hospitalized after suffering a seizure. The incident occurred after the 36-year-old had completed a hot lap of the Valencia race circuit on the back of Ducati’s purpose-built two seater.