By Paul Verkuylen
Stuart O'Grady will return to the boards of the Adelaide Super-Drome this evening for a spectacular dual with another Adelaide local Brett Aitken.
Both riders are previous Olympic gold medalists in the Madison, Aitken in Sydney 2000 with Scott McGrory, while O'Grady won in Athens with Graeme Brown after surprising the entire world by returning to Athens to compete on the track only days after competing in the Olympic road race.
The past few months have been tough for the Australian CSC rider after suffering a horrific crash during a descent in the Tour de France, which pre-maturely ended his 2007 season. O'Grady spent months recovering from the injuries that he sustained, only returning to competition late last month for the Herald Sun Tour in Victoria, Australia. At the time O'Grady was unsure of how he would cope with the high intensity of racing as well as his own demons, but proved to be a valuable part of the Jayco Australian National Team as they attempted to defend the crown they won last year with Simon Gerrans.
Event organiser and 1984 Olympic track gold medal winner Mike Turtur told news.com.au O'Grady would return to track cycling for the first time in three years.
"He is really keen and looking forward to the opportunity to come back," Turtur said. "What we're going to do is not only welcome him back to the Super-Drome but acknowledge his victory in the (2007) Paris – Roubaix, the world's biggest one-day race. It will be a great homecoming for him."
O'Grady is set to contest two rounds of the derny challenge along with Aitken and gun teenager Jack Bobridge, a member of the Australian junior team that won the gold medal in the team pursuit at this year's world junior track championship in Mexico.
"In the 1990s Stuart and Brett Aitken were old foes behind the derny," Turtur said. "Some of the epic races they've had side by side in the last few laps behind the derny were very memorable races.
"Jack Bobridge is another young South Australian guy coming through, he'll keep them honest."
Other Australian Olympians Ryan Bayley, Anna Meares, Ben Kersten and Shane Kelly are also scheduled to race leading Turtur to proclaim the meet as the start of the Beijing Olympic campaign for many riders. "In my view (Saturday) is the official start to the Beijing (Olympic) Games. We've discussed with the Australian Institute of Sport and the coaches about the possibility of doing events which are based here in Adelaide, in the lead-up to Beijing."