The Critérium du Dauphiné time trial provides an opportunity for the Australian to begin climbing the GC rankings.
Ben O’Connor, the AG2R Citroen rider has had a solid season so far, never finishing outside of the top ten in GC and, despite having to withdraw from Paris Nice due to illness, returning to win a stage at Volta a Catalunya and then the one-day Tour du Jura.
After finishing fourth in the Tour de France in 2021, there’s no doubt that Ben O’Connor has what it takes to be a strong general classification rider. However, as significant as his ascension up the overall rankings was last year, the Australian isn’t satisfied with just missing out on the podium.
His greatest overall result of the season so far came in the Tour de Romandie, when he improved one slot from his sixth-place finish in 2021.
“I am rather pleased with how I have been riding so far, but it could have been even better,”
Ben O’Connor said in a Q&A style media release from the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“For example, I was fifth in the Tour de Romandie but I felt that I could have finished on the podium and why not win if everything had gone better.”
The rider from Perth attributes his increased consistency, as well as his loftier objectives, to the process of maturation as a rider.
“I’m still developing physically and my level is rising naturally,” said O’Connor. “I am 26 years old and the years of hard work are starting to pay off. My body is adapting to the demands of these races and is responding better and better to very ambitious goals. I am also becoming more confident. I used to hope to become a general classification rider. Now I am a general classification rider.”
And now he’s a general classification rider who aspires to finish higher than tenth or fifth.
“The time has come to go for a podium in a major World Tour event. It would be my first and I know that it is now possible for me to win these types of races,”
According to Ben O’Connor, the eight-stage Critérium du Dauphiné, which was won by fellow Australian Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers) last year, will begin on Sunday.
In terms of his strategy for the race, where he finished seventh last year, Ben O’Connor is looking past the first uphill finish at Chastreix-Sancy (6.2km at 5.6 percent) and towards the 31.9km time trial on stage 4 as a day that might shape the GC before the final weekend in the Alps.
“Clearly it is a challenge,” said Ben O’Connor of the stage 3 uphill finish.
“I believe that the days when climbers were inevitably bad on flat roads are over. I can also do well in time trials.”
More time trial tests are scheduled for July at another French race, where O’Connor hopes to follow in the footsteps of his compatriots, such as Dauphiné winner Victor Porte, who finished third in the Tour de France in 2020, or even fellow Western Australian Jai Hindley, who has now stood on the very top step of a Grand Tour podium.
Ben O’Connor also stated,
“My Tour adventure last year was extraordinary and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what happened. To win a stage and finish fourth overall in Paris is something huge. And I did it! But of course, you always want to do better. That’s why you become an athlete and why you have to invest so much in this job,”
“So I have changed my view compared to last year and I feel capable of aiming for the top this summer. It was also encouraging to see my friend Jai Hindley win the Giro. He is also from Perth and we have known each other for a long time. When I saw him win, I told myself I too can do it.”
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