Stuart O'Grady (Leopard-Trek) showed in the Vuelta's 11th stage to Estación de Montaña Manzaneda that neither age, nor season fatigue is slowing the Australian down. The 38-year-old finished in the same group as a number of more noted climbers including former Vuelta winner Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC), and former Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre.
Impressively, his finish came after an active day from O'Grady that saw him ride in the day's morning break before rejoining the main field to help team leader Jakob Fuglsang up the day's final climb. Speaking at the end of the stage O'Grady was happy with his form after what has been a long season.
"It’s been a really good surprise. It’s been a long season for everyone, and I think we’re all feeling it," he said. "To be this strong at this point is encouraging."
"We knew it was better for us to be in the breakaway, so I managed to get into the move when the opportunity arose. I felt really good."
O'Grady added that felt that his form was helped by the momentum the team had created for itself with it's opening day victory in the stage 1 team time trial.
"Standing on the podium as a team is something amazing. It has created a fantastic atmosphere within the team," O'Grady continued. "I see the way the guys are feeding off of one another. Everyone is super motivated with the results we have had, it’s infecting the staff, too. It’s a good mood and a good atmosphere at the moment. Now we just need to continue the momentum."
The Vuelta may well be the Australian's last race in Leopard-Trek colours, though O'Grady says that depending on how he feels, he may try to ride again before the Worlds to maintain his form coming out of the Vuelta.
"I’m actually not sure. It could well be," he said. "The World Championships come two weeks after the finish of the Vuelta. I might talk to Kim about doing one more race between the end of the race here in Spain and Worlds. That might be quite important. I’ll have to take it up with the bosses before I know anything definitively."
The sight of O'Grady in the kind of form that he's currently in will excite fans of the Australian national team, with the team a very real chance of repeating their 2009 Worlds victory. Along with Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad), Simon Gerrans (Sky), Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad), Simon Clarke (Astana), and Heinrich Haussler (all likely selections) Australia has one of the strongest teams at the 2011 Worlds.