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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
Going for green
Jaan Kirsipuu puts on the green jersey during the 2001 race
Donning the green jersey is the ambition of the leading sprinters
Australia's Stuart O'Grady goes into this year's Tour de France in stunning form.

As one of the world's top sprinters, he is among the major contenders for the green jersey this time around.

Here he gives his views on his own chances and that of his leading rivals.


Erik Zabel

Erik Zabel
Erik Zabel is a seven-time winner of the green jersey but was pipped to the top prize last year in a thrilling head-to-head with O'Grady's countryman, Robbie McEwen

O'Grady on Zabel: "I don't think Erik Zabel is the same rider he used to be. A few cracks are just beginning to appear in his armoury.

"Last year, when Robbie won the green jersey from him, was perhaps the first time his crown started slipping.

"This season he's not looked the same force and I've found myself beating him pretty easily.

"That's a great boost for me psychologically as the Tour has always been about Erik and the Telekom train leading him in. Someone else might take the limelight from him this year."


Robbie McEwen

Robbie McEwen
As the defending green jersey winner, McEwen will be the top sprinters' major target man this year. As national team-mates, O'Grady is more aware than most of his countryman's ability.

O'Grady on McEwen: "Robbie was the form man in 2002. He started the season sensationally and then didn't really look back after that.

"I know what it's like to go head-to-head with Erik for the green jersey. It's not easy, but Robbie managed it, even if it was in the most nailbiting fashion.

"He has immense power and should be the major contender for green this summer."


Baden Cooke

Baden Cooke
Baden Cooke was the model of consistency in last year's race, continually ending up in the top five without actually picking up a stage win

O'Grady on Cooke: "It seems us Aussies will be leading everyone in this time around! And Baden is another hot property for our country.

"He's an awesome force in the sprints and you know he's always going to be on your tail.

"He's young and is some way off his peak - this year could even be his. And, unlike some of the other sprinters, he should be able to make it through the mountains.

"Even if he fails to battle for it this time, everyone knows he'll be back before too long."


Stuart O'Grady

Stuart O'Grady
O'Grady on himself: "I'm delighted with my shape at the moment. I started the year pretty well, winning the Tour Down Under.

"I feel different to anything I've ever felt in my professional career. There's something different to my racing in the past and it feels great.

"I fancy going for yellow at the prologue and after that I'll be pushing those boys for the green jersey. And, after coming so close to Erik three times before, I think this year will be mine."





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