Stuart O'Grady saddles up for return to racing

Stuart O'Grady in good spirits

Stuart O'Grady in good spirits (Image credit: Mark Zalewski)

Australian cycling superstar Stuart O'Grady will make his return to cycling at next week's Jayco Herald Sun Tour. O'Grady will take to the saddle for the first time in three months following his horrific fall on a descent in stage eight of this year's Tour de France.

The 2007 Jayco Herald Sun Tour begins in Bendigo on Sunday 14 October with the Jayco Classic, and concludes at the Kings Domain in Melbourne on Sunday 21 October.

The 34-year-old suffered a broken shoulder, fractured eight ribs, a collarbone, three vertebrae and also punctured a lung, resulting in a blood clot on the brain in the accident that ended his Tour and threatened his career. He talked to Cyclingnews last month at Eurobike about how things went so far.

He will race in the Jayco Australian team, in his first appearance in the event for a decade. In his only previous appearance in Australia's oldest stage race, in 1997, he claimed the opening stage before going on to score two more stage victories. The Olympic, world and Commonwealth Games champion said there will be some trepidation before his return to competitive racing.

"I'm sure I'll be pretty nervous," he said. "I'm not expecting miracles and I know I'm going to suffer. But I've got to look at the bigger picture and 2008 is going to be a big year. I've made it very, very clear that I'll be in no shape to contest the overall victory or even a stage win. I'm hoping that I'll be able to last the distance. I've only done about ten half-decent training rides but I've got to get through and get some kilometres into the legs," O'Grady played down his ambitions.

He added that "We don't get the chance to do these races very often. It's giving something back to cycling here and I'm hoping I can be of value to the event." The South Australian has amassed an unsurpassed record of achievements in Australian cycling since his Olympic debut in Barcelona in 1992, when he was part of the silver medal winning pursuit team.

O'Grady, who races for Team CSC in Europe, reached the summit of his career by winning this year's Paris-Roubaix classic, becoming the first Australian to win the race known as the "Hell of the North". Other highlights include Olympic gold in the Madison on the track with Graeme Brown in Athens in 2004 and two stage wins in the Tour de France.

O'Grady has twice worn the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, in 1998 when he held the lead for three days, and in 2001 when he held the lead for five days. His trophy cabinet also includes a world championship gold and three Commonwealth Games gold medals.

O'Grady arrived home in Adelaide on the weekend just in time to watch the demise of his beloved Port Power in Saturday's AFL grand final. He has been recovering at his home in Monaco since the crash, returning to the saddle seven weeks after the accident. Initially he was not going to race until next year, but the tough Aussie changed his plans; however, it has only been in the last few weeks that he has been able to commence a heavier training load in preparation for 2008.

The 2007 Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Australia's oldest stage race, is now in its 56th year and is one of Australia's heritage sporting events, supported and revered by generations of Victorians and created by Australia's largest daily newspaper, the Herald Sun.

A rolling festival of community events reaching across Victoria, the tour is a superb showcase for the state. The 2007 Jayco Herald Sun Tour begins in Bendigo and travels to Nagambie, Mitchelton Winery, Mansfield, Beechworth, Falls Creek, Mount Beauty and Wangaratta before returning to Melbourne for the individual time trial and the final stage celebrations as part of the Melbourne Cycling Festival.

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