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By Justin Davis, Agence France Presse
This year’s Paris-Roubaix will come too early for defending champion Stuart O’Grady.
But despite an admitted lack of form the Aussie is determined to play a key role in his CSC team’s bid for a third victory in the world’s toughest one-day bike race.
“We’re going there to win, and we’re going to have to take risks,” said O’Grady, who is primed to work for team leader Fabian Cancellara as he estimates his own form to be only “85 percent.”
If Fabian has a bad day then one of us can go up the road and take his place. That’s the strength of our team.”
That is exactly what O’Grady did last year when 2006 winner Cancellara felt he didn’t have the legs to go all the way, and promptly told his Aussie teammate to go for broke over 20km from the finish line.
This year O’Grady is hoping the big German-speaking Swiss keeps to his pledge to bring CSC their third consecutive crown.
Indeed for the Australian, going over the 52.8km of cobblestones on the 259.5km ‘Hell of the North’ — albeit in possible rain and cold conditions — will prove another major step on his long road to full rehabilitation.
O’Grady was left anxious over his career after a spectacular crash at last year’s Tour de France which left him with multiple fractures.
It took him weeks to even move, never mind think about getting back on a bike to go for a simple training ride.
“I lay in bed for six weeks and for the first four weeks I couldn’t move a thing,” said the Adelaider.
“Eventually I decided I was going to go on the bike (home trainer). My wife thought I was mad, but I did 20 minutes and it was a huge relief.”
Hitting the roads near his home in Monaco proved an even bigger challenge, which O’Grady overcame and then celebrated in the simplest of fashions.
“The first time I decided to finally go out and ride on the road it took me an hour to leave the house!” he added.
“I had all the gear on, but hung around washing my bike and just generally wasting time. I think in the back of my mind I was too scared of going out and injuring my back hitting a pothole.
“In the end I rode all the way to San Remo. When I got there I was so happy I sat down and had coffee for about an hour.”
O’Grady admits it would “be a miracle” if was to emerge victorious in the Roubaix velodrome on Sunday, when the likes of Tom Boonen, Juan Antonio Flecha and a handful of other favorites will be battling CSC for the prestigious cobblestone trophy.
He added: “It’s not just luck you need in this race. You need to be more than 100 percent, and I’m below that, maybe about 80 to 85 percent.
“But we’re going into the race with no pressure. Some teams haven’t won classics (Cancellara at Milan-San Remo) and semi-classics like we have.
“It’d be a dream come true if we won for a third time here.”