Stuart O’Grady’s plan to return to racing in next Sunday’s Stan Siejka Launceston International Classic has been derailed by a bout of illness picked up last week.
“I spent Wednesday to Friday with a raging fever, incredibly painful headaches, some chest pain and a few other nasty symptoms,” he told Cyclingnews this week. “I decided it was time to go into the hospital and get the diagnosis. I spent all Friday at the Royal Adelaide getting checked out, tested and so on, still feeling extremely ordinary. They diagnosed me with bacterial pneumonia.
“I have quite a serious chest infection and started antibiotics immediately. They released me from hospital Friday afternoon, and have been told to take it easy for 7-10 days.”
O’Grady has had a tough run of it in recent weeks, suffering a dramatic collapse in the Valencia round of the MotoGP championship in November. He had just completed a ‘hot lap’ on the Ducati two-seater MotoGP motorcycle with Randy Mamola, and it is thought that the extreme G-forces of that caused his seizure. He has suffered two head injuries in the past 10 years and has some scarring on his brain.
More recently, his two-year-old daughter Keira had to spend a week in quarantine with swine flu and, with his wife Anne Marie caring for her there, he had to leave the Saxo Bank survival camp early and return to Monte Carlo to look after their two other children.
He had just travelled back to Australia when he came down with pneumonia.
O’Grady is as currently unsure as to when he will be back in action, but the illness has put a question mark over his form for the Tour Down Under and the Bay Series races. “Depending on the follow-through examinations, showing how my chest is improving (hopefully), that will decide when and how hard I can begin training. It’s been a very crazy past month, but my family’s health, and my own, comes before everything.
That unfortunately means that he will miss the Lanceston race on December 27th, which has been renamed after its co-founder Stan Siejka following his death in a skiing accident in September.
“I hope the event runs really well and everyone has a great night to remember a really great man,” said O’Grady.
Strong field set to take part:
While regretting the absence of O’Grady, race organiser Tom Sawyer has confirmed that a strong lineup of riders will participate. Those taking part in the popular evening criterium include world Under 23 time trial champion and future Garmin pro Jack Bobridge, former Tour de France green jersey winner Baden Cooke, Rabobank sprinter Graeme Brown, two-time Launceston winner Matt Goss, Melbourne to Warnambool winner Zac Dempster, world omnium champion Leigh Howard, Jonathan Cantwell, Mitch Docker, Simon Clarke, national criterium champion Bernard Sulzberger and his brother Wes.
The event is part of the popular Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals and there will be a $5000 first prize.
Sawyer promises some great racing. “Thanks largely to Tasmanian Institute of Sport and Praties Cycling team, the standard of Tasmania cycling has jumped up a lot in the last few years,” he said. “Along with double winner Matt Goss, this year we can boast the Sulzberger brothers, Richie Porte, and also the National Road Series winner Will Clarke. Will is being tipped by Matthew Gilmore as a favourite going in to the race.
“Baden Cooke, who was second to Hilton Clarke last year, will also be travelling down to Tasmania for his fifth time. He is fresh back from the Saxo Bank training camp on the Canary Islands, and will be the rider many are tipping to win the 2009 event.
“Whilst we would love to have Stuart here, we appreciate his position, and wish him all the best in his recovery.”