By Shane Stokes
Stuart O'Grady may have finished twice second and once third in the green jersey classification in the Tour de France, but he has now decided that he will no longer chase the points jersey for best sprinter in the race.
O'Grady finished just 12 points behind maillot vert winner Thor Hushovd in the 2005 Tour and finished second on the 13th stage of the race. However his move to CSC has coincided with a change in direction, the Aussie opting henceforth to focus on Classics instead of his familiar Tour bunch sprints.
"I think if I was going to win the green jersey, it would have happened by now," he told Cyclingnews at the Team CSC training camp in Lido di Camaiore in Italy on Tuesday. "I have had enough close calls. It is just a tiring classification to go for - you put so much energy into it and that takes your edge off winning stages. You kind of become content with seconds, thirds and fourths as they all give you points. You lose that hunger for winning."
The 32 year old says that his move to CSC is part of a new beginning. "That was my whole reason for moving from Cofidis. With what happened a few years ago with the big scandal and everything, there was a sense of just being content to be bike riders with jobs. But I have been a pro for too long to just ride my bike through the French countryside for fun. And it (racing bikes) isn't fun! So if I do it, I want to do it properly. I want to get that winning feeling back."
O'Grady is part of a eleven-man provisional squad from which the final Tour de France selection will be made. "I have had big talks with Bjarne and management. I have told them that if it takes sacrificing going for the green jersey, then I will do it. If it means being part of the winning team in the Tour de France, then for me it is a big challenge, a big step."
"It would obviously be difficult, not being up there getting involved in sprints, but I have never won a bunch sprint. It is not my forte. I have won in breakaways. That is where I do it. I think that my experience in riding nine Tours will probably play a big part, being able to give something to the team. But also getting into breaks with Jens and Jacob Piil and whoever."
Instead of chasing sprint wins in July, the Australian will aim to hit form earlier on. He was fourth in the 2005 Milan - San Remo, third in the 2004 edition of the race and third in the 2003 Tour of Flanders. Coming close in the past means that doing well in these races will be one of his big focuses this year. "I want to have a real crack at San Remo and the Tour of Flanders," he says. "Roubaix is still a little bit out of my league, but if you are in the right team on the right day with enough team-mates around you, then anything is possible. [Servais] Knaven didn't win Paris-Roubiax because he was the strongest, instead, it was because Museeuw got marked out of the race and all of a sudden, he [Knaven] was the team man. Races like that, there is bit more of Lady Luck being involved and also having a strong team."
On the subject of teams, O'Grady is very happy with his new setup. "It is fantastic. It is definitely extremely professional. They dot their I's and cross their T's - Bjarne is a bit of a perfectionist, plus he has a lot of experience and a lot of time for the people around him. He is just a pool of knowledge. It is just fantastic team of riders, a great setup. What happened with Ferretti's team collapsing was very stressful, but it has all worked out well. I am now part of the best team in the world."
A full interview with Stuart O'Grady will feature on Cyclingnews later this month.
Also see: CSC training photo gallery