Stuart O’Grady has announced his retirement from the professional peloton today. While Australia’s first Classics champion, six-time Olympian and inaugural Tour Down winner had originally stated his intention to retire next year, O’Grady has opted to readjust his plans on the heels of a historical Tour de France for ORICA-GreenEDGE.
The 39-year-old equalled American George Hincapie’s record of 17 appearances in the Grande Boucle, the most prestigious cycling race in the world.
In a glittering career, O’Grady won four Olympic track cycling medals from 1992 to 2004, including gold in the Madison in Athens.
He also won Paris-Roubaix in 2007 and claimed victory in four Tour de France stages (including two individual stages and two team time trials), wearing the yellow jersey for three days in 1998 and six days in 2001, while winning the Tour Down Under in his homeland in 1999 and 2001.
“I’ve always wanted my career to end with something truly special and this year’s Tour de France has given me that,” explained O’Grady. “We’ve had a great race, and I’m really proud of what we accomplished. Winning a stage and standing on the podium with all my teammates after the team time trial in Nice was a dream come true for me this late in my career, and to be able to defend the yellow jersey for Simon [Gerrans] and Daryl [Impey] was special. I’m extremely happy to have had a chance to do that one more time before I retired.”
“Having done all this, I’m happy to say that I’ve had my run,” O’Grady continued. “Originally, I wanted to keep going, but I’ve kept thinking that this is the year. We reached big goals as a team at the Tour, and I’m proud to finish my career after an amazing experience with an incredible team. I’m turning 40 very soon, and I’ve realized there are things in my life that I want to prioritize. My family has helped me make this decision. It’s been 23 years of top level performing and 19 years of professional racing, so it’s time to move on.”
O’Grady has appeared in every Tour de France since he made his debut at La Grand Boucle in 1997. He started a record-tying 17th Tour de France in Corsica in June and has 15 finishes, three stage wins and nine days in yellow to his name.
“I have a lot of great memories to look back upon, and I’m happy to pull the pin at a point where I still feel strong, healthy and competitive,” said O’Grady. “I’ve had some bad crashes along the way, but it’s the great moments – like this year’s Tour de France – that I’ll always remember. Above all, I would like to thank all the fans, my team and my family for always cheering for me and for all the great support throughout my career. It has made me feel appreciated and has given me profound joy for simply doing my job.”
Although O’Grady’s personal victories have diminished in the twilight of his career, he remains a familiar figure on the front of the bunch. The South Australian played an integral role in Simon Gerrans’ Tour de France stage victory in Corsica and the team time trial win in Nice. He was instrumental in the team’s ability to defend the yellow jersey during the first week of the Tour.
“It’s impossible to sum up everything that Stuart has given cycling, but a few things stand out,” said General Manager Shayne Bannan. “His commitment to the sport and to his team has been immense. He’s been a huge resource and a fantastic rider for us to work with. To have that kind of dedication at this point in his career shows a lot about his character. He’s a unique person and an incredible athlete. His experience and status in the peloton has been one of the key elements to our success.”
“We respect his decision and even if we wanted to keep him, we knew that he had been thinking this after the team time trial win,” Bannan added “Bowing out after a legendary career like his has been a hard decision for him, but we’re proud to say that he was part of starting up this team and set the bar for high ambitions from day one.”
O’Grady finished 161st in his final Tour. He will turn 40 in just over two weeks.