By Shane Stokes
Having missed out on his goal of a strong spring Classics campaign after a bad crash on the second stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, Stuart O'Grady will return to racing in the Tour of Catalunya in May, with the goal of being back in strong form for the Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour de France.
The 32 year-old Australian broke his collarbone and five ribs when he slammed into a pothole and crashed heavily. He told Cyclingnews on Thursday that he is finally starting to get over the injuries, and hopes to resume training soon.
"Things have really come along in leaps and bounds today," he said. "I think it has been about 12 days since the crash, I am now getting myself dressed and have quite a lot of mobility, taking the brace off. I have been seeing a chiropractor every day for the last few days and that is really helped to make a huge improvement.
"I will be on the home trainer in the next four to five days. It is not the collarbone at all - that is not actually giving me any pain, it is the bottom part of the rib cage that is the problem. But I can breathe quite normally now without any pain, as long as I am not puffing and going over the top with it. So I think I will get on my bike sooner than expected."
O'Grady was targeting a strong ride in last weekend's Milan-San Remo classic. He says that it is one of his favourite races, along with the Tour of Flanders, and has posted results there in the past to suggest that it is within his scope of winning it. He was fourth last year and third the year before that, and also took third in the 2003 Tour of Flanders. Both were season aims; both of those goals will have to be postponed for another year. But disappointed as he is, he is able to see a silver lining in it all.
"I guess one thing that comes out of this is that although I will miss the Classics, I'll be fresher and hungrier and angrier than ever when I get back on the bike," he says philosophically. "You have got to take the positives from this kind of situation. When I think back to 2004, I missed some of the Classics but had the best year of my life. Riders who miss the start of the season seem to really kick on well at the end of the season, so that is acting as an inspiration and a motivation at the moment."
"I have a programme laid out. I will definitely be doing the Tour of Catalunya, and maybe a few one-day races up in Denmark a few days before it. I might start off up there, but definitely Catalunya. It could work out well; I was programmed to have a break after Paris-Roubaix, with four weeks off. But instead of having that time off after Roubaix, I will just have an enforced break now. In hindsight, I guess another benefit is that I will have had my break so I will be raring to go, doing full training when I would have been resting. So hopefully come the Dauphiné and the Tour, I will be going very well."
A feature on Stuart O'Grady will be published on Cyclingnews soon.