By Hedwig Kröner in Bordeaux
Having crashed heavily in stage 3 and fractured a lower back vertebrae, Stuart O'Grady is still hanging on to the peloton, but if was it not for his willpower, the Australian would have had a good reason to give up the race. First he had to refocus his racing goals as the team's leader, Ivan Basso, did not start, and then, due to the crash, O'Grady was unable to sprint and saw the green jersey points classification rocket up without being able to go for this objective himself.
"It's definitely been a tough start," he said on the Tour's first rest day in Bordeaux. "I was going to ride for Ivan, I was looking forward to the challenge and the new role and I was extremely focused on it. So I went into the prologue thinking throwing all my anger into the bike, and I was feeling good with the result. Unfortunately the crash was pretty heavy, and at the moment I'm just pretty lucky still to be here, I guess."
The sprinter, who came to CSC this year, made up his mind that he didn't want to drop out of the Tour. "The most important thing was to get through the first day [after the crash - ed.]," he continued. "I really wasn't sure about it, but then I did manage, and ever since, it's been getting better and better. But the stages have been flat, so it's been 'easy' - the real test is going to be the first mountain stage. If I can get to the top of that first mountain, then I will finish the Tour."
O'Grady is prepared to battle on, as there is still hope that there will be better days to come. "Nothing can be more painful than those first days when it was freshly broken," he said. "There are still two weeks of racing to do, so once the GC falls into bits, of course I'm going to take every opportunity I can to - if my body lets me - go up the road and try and win a stage, or at least do something. I could already ride once in the front, for the team, and that was already a little 'mission accomplished', just to be able to do that."
It's been "blow after blow" for the Australian's team, too, but O'Grady is hopeful that Team CSC can overcome its difficulties. "To pick itself up is one of the strengths of this team," he explained. "We are a really supportive group of riders, it's not just a bunch of foreigners at the dinner table. I think it's in times like these where the team will really show its true strengths. Now more than ever, we really have to use each other, and use our qualities. But we're as hungry as ever. We keep getting hit, and we keep getting up. One thing's for sure: the bad luck can't keep coming. The wheel always turns, and I'm sure you haven't seen the last of us yet."
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