32-year old Australian Stuart O'Grady will ride for Team CSC next year, official team sources say. O'Grady has signed a one year contract with the team and will be a big boost to the top ProTour squad. O'Grady rode for Cofidis this year, but left to join Giancarlo Ferretti's Sony-Ericsson team, which turned out not to exist. Like several other high profile riders, the talented Aussie was suddenly left without a team, and with many ProTour team budgets almost used up for next season, a lucrative contract was out of the question.
O'Grady was "saved" from riding in a non-ProTour team by his South Australian friend and CSC rider Luke Roberts, who told him to call bossman Bjarne Riis. O'Grady did so on Wednesday evening, and told The Adelaide Advertiser's David Valente, "By the end of the call, we came to an agreement. It's an unbelievable relief. This has been probably the most worrying times I've had."
Riis commented that O'Grady will fill a critical but vacant gap in the team: that of a top sprinter and classics rider. "Stuart is a fantastic rider who is very all-round, and of course we consider him a big reinforcement," said Riis. "I think he'll be very useful in the classics, but also during other parts of the season due to his sprinting skills. At the same time we're dealing with a rider who has a big personality and a lot of experience. I look forward to working with Stuart.
"The deal has not taken long to close, but I've sensed an interest in our team from Stuart before," continued Riis, in reference to the Australian nearly signing for CSC in 2004 before he went to Cofidis. "Now the opportunity was there and I'm very pleased to be able to sign with a rider of his calibre."
O'Grady's program next season has yet to be decided, but it's already certain that he won't be available to ride the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under in January, a race that he loves doing. "It's hard to swallow," O'Grady told The Advertiser. "[The JCTDU], behind the Tour de France, is my favourite. I don't get the chance to compete in Australia very often. This is going to really hurt." O'Grady missed the JCTDU in 2004 after he signed for Cofidis, but persuaded his French team to race it this year.
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