Cycling: O'Grady's day as Sweet tastes victory

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The Independent Online
By Martin Ayres in London

AUSTRALIA'S Jay Sweet sprinted to victory in the final stage of the Prutour of Britain but it was his fellow countryman Stuart O'Grady who took the overall victory after wearing the leader's jersey for the last seven days of the nine-day Tour.

O'Grady, 24, a former world track champion from Adelaide, survived yesterday's 50-mile circuit race around Holborn to finish with a winning margin of 46 seconds over his Gan team-mate Chris Boardman.

His first reaction was disappointment that he had failed to also win the stage. "I was on for it round the last lap, but then took the wrong line in the final corner and pulled my foot out of the pedal, otherwise it would have been a different story," he said. Sweet swept past him to claim his second stage success of the Tour, while O'Grady crossed the line in sixth place.

It was O'Grady's first overall victory in a national Tour and Gan's first major win of the season. "The whole team's been a winner this week, not just myself," he said. "Chris Boardman had the legs to win this Tour, so had Magnus Backstedt, I was just lucky to be the one who was picked."

Boardman had laid the foundations for O'Grady by winning the prologue and opening stage and then supporting O'Grady's victory bid on stage three into York. "I gave the team the start we needed and then Stuart came up with the goods," Boardman said.

Boardman's relief at emerging from the worst lean spell of his career was matched by the rise in his team's morale as they collected three stage wins and dominated the overall standings.

"Perhaps we should stay over here," said Boardman, "unfortunately we've got to go back to the real world of continental racing next week."

Gan ensured that none of their rivals gained an advantage on yesterday's 30-mph dash around the City streets, Chris Newton, was the Best British- based rider, eighth overall after battling to gain ground in the intermediate sprints. His Brite team-mate Matt Illingworth took the daily pounds 1,000 sprint prize.

Prudential's marketing director Clare Salmon said yesterday that the events of the last nine days had "reinforced the company's commitment to the event," which it is contracted to sponsor until 2001.

PRUTOUR Eighth and final stage (80km circuit stage, London): 1 J Sweet (Aus) Bigmat Auber 93 1:39:12; 2 D McKenzie (Aus) Australia; 3 A Korff (Ger) Festina; 4 C Lillywhite (GB) Britain; 5 M Backstedt (Swe) Gan; 6 S O'Grady (Aus) Gan; 7 C Dacruz (Fr) Bigmat Auber 93; 8 C Boardman (GB) Gan; 9 C Barnsley (NZ) New Zealand; 10 D Baranowski (Pol) US Postal Service, all same time. Leading overall standings: 1 O'Grady 27:17:53; 2 Boardman at 46sec; 3 Baranowski +57sec; 4 N Stephens (Aus) Festina +1:14; 5 T Hamilton (US) US Postal Service +1:32; 6 Dacruz +1:33; 7 S Berges (Fr) Bigmat Auber 93 +1:52; 8 C Newton (GB) Brite +1:52; 9 M Backstedt (Swe) Gan +2:15; 10 N Sorensen (Den) Denmark +2:37.