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Australia's O'Grady hangs up his lycra on a high

(L to R) Stuart O'Grady of Australia leads the breakaway followed by Mathew Hayman of Australia and Gert Steegmans of Belgium as they cycle
(L to R) Stuart O'Grady of Australia leads the breakaway followed by Mathew Hayman of Australia and Gert Steegmans of Belgium as they cycle

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Stuart O'Grady has decided to call time on nearly two decades as a professional cyclist after helping the Australian GreenEDGE team win a stage and claim the yellow jersey during his 17th Tour de France.

The 39-year-old South Australian, who finished second in the Tour's points classification on four occasions and won the 2007 Paris-Roubaix classic, had been expected to race into a 20th year but the GreenEDGE breakthrough convinced him otherwise.

"I've always wanted my career to end with something truly special and this year's Tour de France has given me that," O'Grady, whose 17th appearance in the Tour this year tied George Hincapie's record, said in a team media release.

"We've had a great race, and I'm really proud of what we accomplished.

"Winning a stage and standing on the podium with all my team mates after the team time trial in Nice was a dream come true for me this late in my career, and to be able to defend the yellow jersey for Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey was special.

"I'm extremely happy to have had a chance to do that one more time before I retired.

"Having done all this, I'm happy to say that I've had my run."

A former track cyclist who won medals at three Olympics, including gold at the 2004 Athens Games, O'Grady first raced on the Tour in 1997 and became only the second Australian to wear the famous yellow jersey in 1998 when he claimed the first of three career stage wins.

"It's impossible to sum up everything that Stuart has given cycling, but a few things stand out," said GreenEDGE's Shayne Bannan.

"His commitment to the sport and to his team has been immense. He's been a huge resource and a fantastic rider for us to work with. To have that kind of dedication at this point in his career shows a lot about his character.

"He's a unique person and an incredible athlete. His experience and status in the peloton has been one of the key elements to our success."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ian Ransom)

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