By John Trevorrow in Bendigo
CSC's Stuart O'Grady climbed back on his bike for his first race since his horrific crash in the Tour de France, saddling up for the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Bendigo as part of the Australian National team. While he and most of the peloton did not finish the race, just turning the pedals in anger was victory enough for the Paris-Roubaix winner. "I gotta tell you, the heart was pumping pretty hard and fast for the first ten minutes," O'Grady said after the race.
O'Grady took part in the hour long criterium in Bendigo, which is the traditional warm-up for the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and does not count toward the overall classification. After a fast and aggressive start to the race, an early breakaway of seven riders went clear. When the peloton was in danger of being lapped by the breakaway, the officials pulled all but the lead seven riders off the course.
O'Grady, after suffering through those furious first ten minutes, was pleased to have made it through the race safely. "This was my first real test since the Tour and I wanted to make sure I stayed out of trouble." O'Grady suffered a horrific wreck in stage eight of the Tour this year, falling on the descent of the Cormet de Roselend, and nearly going off the cliff had a post not stopped him - breaking nine ribs, his shoulder and puncturing his lung.
After months of rehab, it was reasonable that he would want to be even more vigilant than usual, and O'Grady stayed close to the front to be safe. "When you haven't got form you ride smart, and that was what I was trying to do today. Just keeping out of trouble. It was a pretty technical little course, a couple of dangerous corners and the last thing I wanted to do was end up on my backside again."
Just getting back into racing was occasion to celebrate I was very happy about today. "Aaron [Kemps] might have won the race but that was a significant victory for me," O'Grady declared. "I was pretty happy to just be out there and racing."
For the rest of the race, he hopes that his form will continue to improve, and that he will be able to ensure that his team gets a good result. "Today was more speed but it will be different out on the road," he decided. "I definitely haven't got any power in the legs but I'm sure I will be able to do something to help out the boys at some stage."