O'Grady looking good for the Tour

Australian tough guy Stuart O'Grady has had more than his fair share of crashes in recent years, but feels confident that he is back on track and will be part of the Saxo Bank team for the Tour de France.

On March 21, the 35-year-old had a bad crash during Milano-Sanremo, suffering a punctured lung, broken right collar bone and a broken rib in his back.

"I've been worse," he said afterwards at the time, referring to his 2007 fall in the Tour de France which saw him fracture multiple ribs, suffer a punctured lung and a broken right shoulder.

He returned to racing in the Volta a Catalunya, placing 15th on the opening stage, and is now competing in the Tour of Luxembourg.

"Once again I've got my body back 100%, but the last two months were really hard," he told Cyclingnews. "Watching the Classics on TV was probably one of the hardest, most frustrating periods of my career. I had to have a complete month off due to the punctured lung, then I slowly built up the form again, with a lot of silent suffering in the mountains behind Monaco.

"I was pretty nervous about Catalunya, it being my first race after a couple of months out, but I was really surprised by how I went. The hard work paid off!"

Another factor in getting over his injuries was that Victor Popov, described by O'Grady as "one of the world's best physios," happened to be staying in Monaco at the time. "He was working on me every couple of days," he said. "This really helped me get back into training much quicker and, as of now, I don't have any pain at all. Just the legs after a hard race!

Apart from winning the 2007 Paris-Roubaix, O'Grady has taken several notable victories in his career. He won gold in the 2004 Olympic Madison, adding to earlier silver and bronze medals in the Games, and has netted several stage victories in the Tour de France. He also wore the yellow jersey in 1998 and 2001, and finished second in the green jersey competition in 2001, 2004 and 2005.

Last year, O'Grady he played an important role in the outcome of the race, helping teammate Carlos Sastre triumph overall. He'll hope to do the same this year with either Andy or Fränk Schleck, and is building form with that in mind.

"I am currently in Luxembourg racing their Tour, then we have another training camp before heading over to the Tour de Swiss. That will be my last race before the Tour de France," he said. "My role during the Tour will be the same as last year. I will look after our team leaders, use my experience whenever its needed out on the roads and just do whatever is required on each and every stage.

As far as targets after that race are concerned, he didn't want to think too far ahead. "Well, let's just get through the Tour first," he stated. "But since I missed the Classics the Worlds would be a nice target, I think!"

The 2009 World Championships will take place in Mendrisio in Switzerland.

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