Road

O’Grady on top Down Under

A bitter two-year spell of misfortune that once threatened Stuart O'Grady's life, let alone his career as a cyclist, may be near its end. The proof for O'Grady’s (Credit Agricole) came yesterday when he took race leadership of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. The South Australian realizes the 757km race is still a long way from him adding a second victory to the one he claimed in 1999. But the image of O'Grady on the podium and in the yellow jersey after the 165km second stage from McLaren Vale to Victor Harbor, which was won by Italian Alessio Galletti (Saeco), heralded an emphatic

Saeco’s Galletti wins third stage

By Rupert Guinness, The Australian

Stuart O'Grady dons the yellow jersey.

Stuart O’Grady dons the yellow jersey.

Photo: Graham Watson

A bitter two-year spell of misfortune that once threatened Stuart O’Grady’s life, let alone his career as a cyclist, may be near its end. The proof for O’Grady’s (Credit Agricole) came yesterday when he took race leadership of the Jacob’s Creek Tour Down Under.

The South Australian realizes the 757km race is still a long way from him adding a second victory to the one he claimed in 1999. But the image of O’Grady on the podium and in the yellow jersey after the 165km second stage from McLaren Vale to Victor Harbor, which was won by Italian Alessio Galletti (Saeco), heralded an emphatic message. It read: the self-acclaimed “red-headed freckly bastard from Adelaide” is back to where he was before misfortune blocked his path.

O’Grady’s last two years have been marred by woes; foremost was when he was mugged in Toulouse, an incident that resulted in a fractured scull and large blood clot. Then after finally recovering he returned to race in last year’s Tour de France where he crashed at broke his collarbone.

Going into the Tour Down Under’s fourth stage, O’Grady may only hold a meager two-second lead on Italy’s Fabio Sacchi (Seaco) and Germany’s Jurg Ludewig. But the fact it was at Victor Harbor two years ago where he won the stage and wore yellow escaped nobody — especially O’Grady. “I am very happy. But we still have some hard days ahead,” said O’Grady after clinching his lead with time bonuses.

Galletti, a lead-out man for the absent Mario Cipollini, won the stage by 3 minutes, 18 seconds ahead of the main pack, led home by Australian Graeme Brown (United Water) and O’Grady.

O’Grady started the day third overall, two seconds behind Sacchi. But he gained two seconds with his third place time bonus, and another two when Sacchi finished two seconds behind him. But O’Grady warned himself as much as his rivals that anyone hoping to have the yellow jersey by Sunday’s finish will have to go through hell.

“If it gets really hot in the hills it will be bad for everyone. There will be carnage,” predicted O’Grady.

Today’s 157km fourth stage from Unley to Strathalbyn will be brutal, especially if the wind that has swept Adelaide this week remains. It was the prospect of hard racing ahead that led to O’Grady and the other challengers to allowing yesterday’s stage winning break to escape.

The break formed when South Australian road champion Steve Cunningham (Uni of SA) attacked soon after the start. However, Cunningham made no friends by choosing the moment when the field stopped for a natural break to make his move.

Attacking when riders are relieving themselves en-masse is a serious breach of racing etiquette, as Cunningham discovered. He was quickly joined by Galletti whose chase was aimed more at arresting the young Australian than staying away like it did. The pair gained a maximum lead of more than 15 minutes, before Galletti blew Cunningham away on a hill 20km later.

For Galletti, the road to victory was his for keeps. He dedicated the stage win to his father Edo who died recently because of heart trouble. However, as O’Grady said, the peloton saw no reason to reel in the Italian from Tuscany who had only won one race before.

Australian fans show their support during the third stage of the Tour Down Under.

Australian fans show their support during the third stage of the Tour Down Under.

Photo: Graham Watson

“With about 80 kilometers to go we knew were not going to catch him,” said O’Grady. “With 12 minutes [lead] he could have pushed himself home in a wheel chair and still beaten us. When you are not going to win everyone isn’t in the killer mode. I knew I just had to get second or third. I think people today were more nervous about losing time than trying to gain it.”

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Results

TOUR DOWN UNDER, Australia, January 16-21;
Stage 3: McLaren Vale to Victor Harbour;
1. Alessio Galletti (I), Saeco Macchine Per CaffÈ, 165km in 4.18.12 (38.3 kph); 2. Graeme Brown (Aus), United Water, at 3.18; 3. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Credit Agricole, s.t.; 4. Hendrick Van Dijck (B), Lotto Adecco, s.t.; 5. David McKenzie (Aus), Jacob’s Creek-Linda McCartney, s.t.; 6. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est), Ag2R Decathlon, s.t.; 7. Ciaran Power (Irl), Jacob’s Creek-Linda McCartney; 8. Tayeb Braikia (Dk), Jacob’s Creek-Linda McCartney, s.t.; 9. Steffen Wesemann (G), Telekom, at 3.20; 10. Luke Roberts (Aus), University of South Australia, s.t.; 11. Crescenzo d’Amore (I), Mapei-Quick Step, s.t.; 12. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), Ag2R Decathlon, s.t.; 13. Paul Van Hyfte (B), Lotto Adecco, s.t.; 14. Fabio Sacchi (I), Saeco Macchine Per CaffÈ, s.t.; 15. Kai Hundertmark (G), Telekom, s.t.; 16. Alexandre Chouffe (F) Big Mat, s.t.; 17. Lado Fumic (G), University of South Australia, s.t.; 18. Fabien De Waele (B), Lotto Adecco, s.t.; 19. Danilo Hondo (G), Telekom, s.t.; 20. Stefano Zanini (I), Mapei-Quick Step, s.t.;
General classification after stage 3;
1. O’Grady (Aus), Credit Agricole, 8.48.00; 2. Sacchi (I), Saeco Macchine Per CaffÈ, at 0.02; 3. Jorg Ludewig (G), Saeco Macchine Per CaffÈ; 4. Kai Hundertmark (G), Telekom, at 0.06; 5. Daniele Nardello (I), Mapei-Quick Step, s.t.; 6. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), Ag2R Decathlon, at 0.08; 7. Chris Jenner (NZ), Credit Agricole, s.t.; 8. Nicolaj Bo Larsen (Dk), CSC-World Online, at s.t.; 9. Benoit Poilvet (F) Credit Agricole, s.t.; 10. Patrick Jonker (Aus), Big Mat, s.t.; 11. Arvis Piziks (Lat), CSC-World Online, s.t.; 12. Dominique Rault (F), Big Mat, at 0.19, 13. Glenn D’Hollander (B), Lotto Adecco, s.t.; 14. Cadel Evans (Aus), Sunsmart-Mitsubishi, s.t.; 15. Nick Gates (Aus) Sunsmart-Mitsubishi, at 0.22; 16. Anthony Morin (F), Credit Agricole, s.t.; 17. Crescenzo d’Amore (I), Mapei-Quick Step, at 3.53; 18. Robert Bartko (G), Telekom, at 3.54; 19. Gene Bates (Aus), University of South Australia, s.t.; 20. Jakob Piil (Dk), CSC-World Online, s.t.;
Others; 63. Bobby Julich (USA), Credit Agricole, at 27.31