There will be no comeback, says veteran
All going to plan, Stuart O'Grady (Orica GreenEdge) will retire following the 2014 Tour de France having set a new record of 18 starts however the 39-year-old says that the racing in between will not be "a Farewell Tour."
The team announced the extension of the Australian's current deal on Wednesday.
"I can say this for certain," O'Grady said. "I'm happy to continue for the next 13 months, and then it's all over. Once I hang it up, it will be hung up very high and very well. There will be no comeback."
O'Grady will go down as one of the greats of Australian cycling, the nation's first winner of a Monument - Paris-Roubaix in 2007 and only second to Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo in terms of Olympic appearances in the sport.
This year, if selected, he will equal George Hincapie's record of 17 Tour de France starts with the Grande Boucle a cornerstone of his career. Signing for Gan in 1995, O'Grady raced his first Tour two years later and has taken on the event every season since. Over that time, he's won two stages, worn the maillot jaune for nine days, finished second in the points classification in 2001, 2005, and was third in 2002. He also rode on the winning team with Carlos Sastre at CSC - Saxo Bank in 2008.
"I wanted to finish off my career at a race that's meant a lot to me throughout my time as a professional," he explained. "The Tour has probably made my career. To retire on the Champs-Élysées would be a symbolic way to close things out."
O'Grady has played the key role in recent years both on trade teams and while on national duty as 'road captain' and that will continue over the next year, with an emphasis of passing on his wealth of experience.
"I'm not sticking around for myself," he said. "I'm riding because I want to give back to this team. It's important to me that I make the time and effort to pass along my information and experience to someone who can step up and fill the road captain role. We'll be working on that intentionally in the next year.
"Obviously, you never know what's around the corner in terms of any plan we've put together," he continued. "Hopefully it all works out. I think it will feel really good to do my final Tour Down Under, my final Classics campaign, my final Tour de France and to know that each is my last. It's really motivating to me to think about, and I'll definitely go into this next year at my best."
In making the announcement, O'Grady credited Orica GreenEdge financial backer Gerry Ryan along with general manager Gerry Ryan for providing the ultimate pathway for Australian cyclists, saying that riding for the team was "a dream come true." O'Grady said that it will be "pretty likely" that he will continue working with Orica GreenEdge once he retired from racing.
"Cycling has been my life in the last 20 odd years," he said. "It will be nice to wake up and think about something other than training and suffering and pain. I'm looking forward to spending more time with my family and not having to be so selfish on a personal level. I've done that for a long time. We have time to find a role for me after retirement. It's something we can discuss more at a later date."