Seasoned Tour de France campaigner Stuart O’Grady has rubber-stamped his departure from Saxo Bank by signing with the Luxembourg Cycling Project being led by Schleck brothers Andy and Frank.
The Schlecks caused a minor upset recently by quitting Saxo Bank, owned and managed by former Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis, and many of their former teammates have followed suit.
O’Grady, a former winner of the gruelling Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, has also been instrumental in Saxo Bank’s successes on the Tour de France in recent years, displaying leadership qualities in his role as road captain.
His experience on the world’s biggest bike race, in which the younger of the Schleck siblings, Andy, has finished runner-up the past two years, is highly-valued.
“Stuart is a real legend and probably among the most phenomenal athletes of his generation,” the new team’s general manager Brian Nygaard said. “He has won everything worth winning on the track, as well as an impressive list of victories on the road, topped off by claiming one of the most beautiful recent editions of the Paris-Roubaix.”
“I enjoy the challenge of being road captain,” O’Grady explained.
“It is not as easy as it sounds. I have to use my knowledge, to keep the ‘young guns’ cool, calm and collected when the going gets tough. I remind the guys to work as a team, to support each other, to respect each other, and to give 100 percent.”
Though O’Grady will be entering his 17th year as a professional, he still has personal ambitions.
“Personally I want to have another big classics season,” he revealed. “I have been a bit unlucky with injuries and broken bones since winning Roubaix in 2007. So it would be nice to win some big races with the team and of course help the Schlecks win the Tour de France!”
The Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project has recently signed several top names, including German trio Linus Gerdemann, Fabian Wegmann and Jens Voigt and Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang.
Italian sprinter Daniele Bennati has also joined.
Andy Schleck is likely to start the 2011 Tour de France as one of the big favourites, having finished runner-up to Spaniard Alberto Contador in 2009 and 2010.
Contador is currently provisionally suspended and awaiting word on a possible sanction after testing positive, during the 2010 race, for trace amounts of the banned weight loss/muscle building drug clenbuterol.
Michael Rogers signs with Team Sky
Australia’s Michael Rogers has ended a successful five-year spell with HTC-Columbia by signing for British outfit Team Sky.
The 30-year-old from Canberra, a three-time world time trial champion, brings a wealth of stage-racing experience as a veteran of nine Grand Tours.
Sports director Sean Yates is delighted to have Rogers on board and feels he can be a great role model for the younger riders on the team.
He said: “Michael is a consummate professional and great addition to the team. He has proven himself in big races right throughout his career and that experience will be an invaluable asset to us.
“He takes his job as a bike rider seriously and the younger guys in the team will be able to learn a lot from him.”
Early in his career Rogers was tipped as a possible challenger for the Tour de France yellow jersey, but after years of frustration, the Australian said after this year’s race he had virtually given up on that ambition.
Instead, Rogers said he would look to focus on winning one-week stage races. He was the first non-American to win the Tour of California, earlier this year, and has in the past won the Tour of Germany, Belgium and the Route du Sud.
Rogers is excited to begin this new chapter of his career at Team Sky and has no qualms about taking a central role within the squad.
He said: “I like the direction and general outlook of the team and am delighted to be here. Having ridden against them this year it was clear to see the team were learning and improving all the time and I expect that to continue next season.
“I’ve been lucky enough to ride with some great riders in the past and have learned a lot from them. If they want me to, I am more than happy to pass some of that experience along and I will do whatever I can to help the team’s progression.”
Rogers is the fourth Australian on the Team Sky roster and his move follows those of Davide Appollonio, Alex Dowsett, Jeremy Hunt, Rigoberto Uran and Xabier Zandio.
© AFP 2010