Stuart O’Grady has become the latest rider to sign for the new GreenEDGE team for 2012.
The Leopard-Trek rider, 38, has signed a two-year deal, and becomes the fourth Australian to join the squad after Garmin-Cervélo trio Travis Meyer, Cameron Meyer and Jack Bobridge were confirmed last week.
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GreenEDGE are hopeful of becoming Australian’s first World Tour team, and O’Grady admits the opportunity to ride for a “home” squad was an opportunity he didn’t want to turn down.
O’Grady said: “To ride for an Australian team has been a dream of mine since I turned pro way back in 1995. I wasn’t sure such a team would come around before I retired but I’m glad it has.”
“I’ve been racing for a long time and seen the evolution of Australian cycling from guys like Phil Anderson, Neil Stephens and Patrick Jonker to myself as part of the generation that followed and now we’ve got an impressive group of young riders coming through.”
He added: “For a country where cycling is a relatively small sport the progress in such a short period of time has been incredible.”
A double stage winner at the Tour de France, O’Grady turned professional with GAN in 1995, and stayed with the team (which became Credit Agricole at the end of 1998) for nine years.
After riding with Cofidis for two seasons, he joined Bjarne Riis’ Team CSC in 2006, and stayed with them through their various guises until he followed team leaders Andy Schleck, Frank Schleck and Fabian Cancellara to Leopard-Trek for 2011.
O’Grady wins the 2007 Paris-Roubaix
“I’ve spent quite a few years supporting the Schleck brothers at the Tour de France and Fabian in the classics and doing that job alongside Jens Voigt we’ve been like a family. It’s been a privilege racing with those guys and leaving Leopard-Trek to join GreenEDGE has been the hardest decision of my career,” O’Grady admitted.
He will use his experience to assist the development of the younger riders within the team; interestingly, when he won his silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, his future team-mates Travis Meyer and Jack Bobridge were only three-years-old.