Stuey battling for every point

This is looking like one of the tightest battles ever for the points title, and events on Saturday s

This is looking like one of the tightest battles ever for the points title, and events on Saturday s
Saturday was an eventful day for green jersey contender Stuart O'Grady. Things started peacefully enough in the start village at Chateaubriant with a chat with procycling, shortly before the peloton headed out onto the roads of Brittany. But his mood was to change by the time he reached St Brieuc, at the end of the afternoon. In Chateaubriant, though, he was very relaxed. "Hmmm," he pondered, as he studied his bike and clothing. "Too much green." With that the Australian sat down and pulled off his bright green overshoes. "Don't tell the sponsor," he grinned. O'Grady has rediscovered his zest for racing in recent weeks after his team's troubled spring, with wins in the Dauphin Libr and, more recently, his Tour success in Chartres. Relaxed after his spate of success, O'Grady was happy to speak openly of his traumas this season. After his recent shining form did he see himself as the saviour of Cofidis - or was he simply saving himself? "Trying to stay focused on bike riding has been really hard," he admitted. "It's been the hardest season of my life, but I've also had the best results. I've got a tough character. It would have been easy to drop the bundle, but we've soldiered through it." The 30 year old from Adelaide agreed that the press conference in Chartres, immediately after his stage win last week, had been an emotional moment. "I was choosing my words carefully," he said of that tense post-race interview, "but then you've got to these days! But it was my real dream to come here and win one for the team, and to give something back to everyone." Despite their welter of problems, Cofidis are likely to hang onto O'Grady in 2005. "I'm contracted to stay here and I think the team are going to continue," he said. And he still had a few thoughts for his absent close friend, David Millar: "We've spoken quite a few times. He's having a pretty tough time. I hope he can come back. He's one of the best in the world, no matter what mistakes he's made. But hopefully he'll bounce back ." By the time he crossed the finish line, O'Grady was in a different mood. Perplexed that his compatriot Scott Sunderland had contested the bunch sprint - and taken a crucial point from him at the end of a day on which Robbie McEwen had made up ground - the pair had words and, according to some sources, a brief shoving match ensued. Soon afterwards, talking to the Australian media at the Cofidis team bus, O'Grady seemed deeply upset by his altercation with Sunderland of the Alessio team. "It was a person in the classification getting in the way," he said tactfully, before adding: "It's not hard to work out who it is. Desperate riders," he concluded, "do desperate things." Looks like the Australian scrap for the green points jersey has only just begun.

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