By Greg Johnson, in Sydney, Australia
The Australian cycling fraternity is celebrating following the first victory by one of its countrymen at the famed Paris-Roubaix monument race overnight. Down Under cycling enthusiasts who followed the race into the wee hours of the morning were well rewarded for their late-night commitment when reports flowed in that South Australian Stuart O'Grady was the first to roll into the Roubaix velodrome, some 52 seconds ahead of his nearest rival Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank).
"To tackle the 'Hell of the North' event and win is an outstanding achievement for any professional cyclist," said 1984 Olympic Gold Medallist and Tour Down Under event director Mike Turtur. "But for Stuart the victory is all that much sweeter as I know from a personal perspective that he had a burning desire to win the event."
O'Grady's victory claims the 33 year-old a unique piece of history: he's not only the first Australian to take victory at the event, but is also the first native English speaking winner since Classics legend Sean Kelly lifted the cobble stone trophy some 21 years ago.
"It's bigger than that," explained Cycling Australia High Performance manager Kevin Tabotta, "there's only a handful of guys who can claim to have won the Paris-Roubaix. It's arguably the biggest race in one day cycling other than the world championships. Some will say Milan-Sanremo, some will say Tour of Flanders, but there's no denying that the Paris-Roubaix is either first or second in anyone's mind."
Read the full O'Grady feature, To hell and back.