George Hincapie set the current record of 17 starts when he lined up at this year’s Tour, although he has since been stripped of his results from May 31, 2004 through July 31, 2006 after he confessed to doping throughout his time at US Postal and Discovery Channel. The American also jointly holds the record for completed Tours (16) with Joop Zoetemelk.
O’Grady has completed all but one Tour since 1997 (a crash forced him out in week one in 2000), and the 39-year-old can equal and then exceed Hincapie’s tally in the next two seasons.
“There's a bit of pressure that there's going to be an 18th [Tour]," O’Grady told Adelaide Now.
O’Grady’s 2012 season ended when he sustained a broken collarbone and six broken ribs in a crash at the Vattenfall Cyclassic, just a week after finishing a fine sixth in the Olympic Games road race. Wintering in Australia, O’Grady is back in training and looking ahead to the new campaign.
“I'm all recovered now but the healing process seems to take longer as you get older,” he said. “"I'm looking forward to starting next season here in Australia before heading back to Europe. We'll hopefully build up for the Classics and the Tour de France – it will be number 17 this year. Obviously, time flies."
O’Grady is expected to begin his season at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, as it debuts in its new January slot in the calendar, while Orica-GreenEdge gets its second WorldTour campaign underway at the Tour Down Under. The Australian squad captured a Milan-San Remo and a Vuelta a España stage in its first season, but O’Grady is hopeful the team can make a bigger impact on the Tour de France in 2013.
"It's going to be pretty hard to repeat what we've achieved this year,” he said. "The next step will be to win a stage on the Tour de France. That would be awesome."