By Anthony Tan
With a number of cycling's monuments just a few weeks away, talk has turned towards races like the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix and Amstel Gold, and riders like Backstedt, Boogerd, Boonen, Dekker, Hincapie, Van Petegem and Wesemann. The name Stuart O'Grady is also in amongst the chatter, and after his performance last weekend, deservedly so.
True, there was little any rider could do against the might and power of Alessandro Petacchi and Fassa Bortolo at Milan-San Remo.
But Stuart O'Grady did better than most. After being isolated following a pile-up on the Cipressa and getting hooked into the barriers with less than a kilometre remaining, the freckly-faced Aussie put in a massive effort to move forward 20-plus places in the last few hundred metres, eventually - and quite remarkably - finishing fourth.
Was he satisfied?
"Yeah... I was happy in a way, I guess," reflects O'Grady to Cyclingnews a few days after La Primavera, now back at his home in France. "I went there hoping for a better result and to pull off a win, and I really felt like I had the legs to do better, so I was probably a bit disappointed at the finish. But the sprint was pretty chaotic, and in the end, I'm pretty happy with a fourth place in a World Cup."
For the 31 year-old South Australian, prime time is now, with more of spring's biggest and best one-day events just around the corner. "I'm ready to go for Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Amstel Gold; I'm feeling pretty good about myself, and now I'm going to try and get a result," he says with the muted confidence of a cagey, seasoned professional that he is.
Though careful with his choice of words, in his voice there's a certain optimism, excitement and tension. Look out for the full interview with Stuart O'Grady, to be posted on Cyclingnews later today.