Australia's Stuart O'Grady has inked a new deal with CSC-Saxo Bank that will keep him with the Danish outfit for another two years, the team announced Wednesday, while Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd signed with Cervélo for two years after racing for Crédit Agricole since 2001.
O'Grady, one of the most successful Australians in the peloton and a former winner of the tough Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, was thought to be winding down towards eventual retirement.
However, the 35-year-old Adelaider admitted the lure of another two years with one of the world's most successful teams was too enticing to pass up.
"The results I've achieved here I wouldn't have been able to get anywhere else and at the same time I'm extremely happy to have been a part of all the triumphs my teammates have achieved," said O'Grady. "I've had my fair share of crashes throughout the last couple of years, but the team has always allowed me the time it took to recover and been there for me through tough times.
"Our friendship and the mutual respect between the riders is very unique and it's the main reason for my extension. I look forward to the next two seasons and I'm happy to work for the world's best cycling team."
O'Grady crashed out of last year's Tour de France and took months to recover from his injuries. Earlier this summer he was an integral part of the team which helped Spaniard Carlos Sastre to beat Australian Cadel Evans to the Tour de France yellow jersey.
Sastre has since announced he will join the new Canadian outfit Cervélo for the 2009 season.
CSC owner Bjarne Riis, who has attracted a new sponsor, Saxo Bank, and signed Specialized to provide bicycles and other kit, said O'Grady was "extremely valuable" to the team "both in terms of his results but also his vast experience".
"He's one of the most experienced riders on the team and he's also the type of rider who can decide a Classic or a stage in the Tour," Riis said. "I'm really happy we get to keep Stuart with us for the next two seasons and I know we've secured ourselves a key player for the Classics as well as the big stage races."
Thor Hushovd signs with Cervélo for two years
By Jean-François Quénet with additional reporting from Ben Atkins
After Carlos Sastre, Thor Hushovd is the second big name of the Tour de France signed by the newly born Cervélo Test team. The Norwegian has signed a two-years contract with the Swiss-based organisation set to be directed on the road by Scott Sunderland and Jean-Paul van Poppel.
Hushovd, one of the fastest and most consistent sprinters in the sport has won six stages of the Tour de France, including the prologue of the 2006 race and stage 2 this year. He also won the green jersey in the 2005 race. The three-time Norwegian champion has ridden for the Crédit Agricole team since turning professional with them in 2001. Unable to secure a sponsor to replace the French bank which ends its support at the season's end, the team was forced to allow its riders to seek contracts elsewhere.
"I've had long discussions with the board and although it's a new team, I've had a very good feeling about it," Hushovd told Cyclingnews from his home in Switzerland. "They want to run this team in a new way. They'll focus on the results but also on the material. We'll try all the equipment. I will also have the best support for the Classics and the sprints in the Tour de France."
After nine seasons at Crédit Agricole, a team he intended to never leave until it failed to find a new sponsor, the winner Stage 2 of the 2008 Tour de France says he's ready for the big adventure. "I want to thank Roger Legeay for all the great years I've had with him," he added. "I really appreciate the way he runs a team and his drugs free policy."
Although the season is not yet over for the French team, the Norwegian will not get another chance to wear the green and white in competition again. Advised by Crédit Agricole team doctor Joël Ménard, he decided to call it a season after receiving the results of the blood test he underwent last week following his abandon in Stage 4 of the Deutschland Tour.
"It showed that I hadn't recovered from the Tour de France yet," he lamented. "It's a pity because I know that the course of the world championship suits me this year. I wanted to give Crédit Agricole one more win before leaving. I even thought of riding the Chrono des Nations at the very end of the season, but I promise my fans to come back even stronger next year with the goals of winning a big classic and the green jersey of the Tour de France again."
"We are very pleased that Thor has decided to join Cervélo TestTeam. With him we have another leadership figure on our team," said Thomas Campana, general manager of the new Cervélo TestTeam. "With his outstanding skills, Thor will be a key rider for us, not only in competition but also in product development for Cervélo, Zipp, Speedplay, Vittoria, 3T and the other industry partners that will join us in the next few weeks. On top of that, he is a very likeable person and our customers and clients will be excited to spend time with him."
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008