O'Grady to join strong peloton at Tour Down Under

The Tour Down Under will welcome the return of two-time former winner Stuart O'Grady, who suffered a...

The Tour Down Under will welcome the return of two-time former winner Stuart O'Grady, who suffered a bad crash in the Tour de France last summer. The 1999 and 2001 Tour Down Under winner broke his ribs, collarbone and shoulder blade and punctured a lung in France. The Australian isn't holding onto high hopes for another win for himself, but he wasn't ruling out a chance to make some breakaways.

"[Winning] would mean absolutely everything had to work out perfectly for me," said O'Grady on the team's website team-csc.com. "It would almost take a miracle really, because I'm not far enough in my training after my accident to be among the favorites this year. I'll do what I can to get a good result of course, but don't expect too much from me yet." O'Grady said his main focus on the Spring Classics.

That doesn't mean his team won't be trying for a win. The three-time ProTour winning squad's manager, Bjarne Riis, said he knows it's early in the season, but "We'd never pass up the chance to win a race."

Regardless of his past injuries, O'Grady will be watched closely by the riders from all 19 teams entered once the race starts Tuesday. He will be among 29 total racers who also participated in the Tour de France last summer according to the Australian Associated Press.

Former Tour de France stage winner and Caisse d'Epargne manager Neil Stephens commented on the depth of this year's field to the AAP. "There's probably no better riders than have come here before, but there's more of them," the Australian said. "Within every team there's a couple of riders who could well take out the overall classification."

"The Tour Down Under has always been important because it's great to start the season well, a win is always good, but now being a ProTour event, it's essential," added Stephens making an observation on the elevated status of the Tour Down Under as the first ProTour event outside of Europe.

Meanwhile, Team Lampre is gearing up for its first race in 2008, the Tour Down Under Classic, a 50km circuit race that on Sunday precedes the Tour Down Under. Seven Lampre riders will race under sport director Vicino. The team arrived in Adelaide last Tuesday to train and acclimate to the weather and time zone.

"In Australia is summer, so the weather is beautiful: this allowed the cyclists to train in a very good way," said sport director Bruno Vicino.

Last year's event was won by the Swiss Martin Elmiger riding for Ag2r Prévoyance ahead of Karl Menzies (Australia - UniSA) and Lars Bak (Team CSC). O'Grady finished 18th. Read the race preview.

Team CSC for Tour Down Under: Kurt Asle Arvensen, Lars Bak, Matthew Goss, Allan Johansen, Kasper Klostergaard, Stuart O'Grady and Nicki Sørensen in the line-up.

Lampre for Tour Down Under Classic: Fabio Baldato, Emanuele Bindi, Paolo Fornaciari, Francesco Gavazzi, Mirco Lorenzetto, Massimiliano Mori and Christain Murro.

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