Ben O’Connor produced a breakthrough performance to finish fourth in the 2021 Tour de France, and the Australian is naturally confident he can repeat that performance or do even better.
AG2R Citroën revealed that Bob Jungels will also be part of the team for the Tour de France if he is negative in a final COVID-19 test carried out late on Wednesday. The Luxembourg rider was not present at the AG2R Citroën press event held in person at the Grand Départ permanence.
“If he’s positive, he won’t start,” team manager Vincent Lavenu made clear despite a change in the UCI COVID-19 protocols.
“We’d like to have the result tonight, to have a substitute in place. We have bikes for different riders ready, we just need the rider.”
O’Connor seemed unperturbed by Jungels' absence and the COVID-19 scare. The 26-year-old from Perth is wise beyond his years and naturally ambitious.
“I’m a year older and more confident because I’ve prepared for the Tour as a clear objective. Last year was a breakthrough, but now it’s clear which direction as a rider I’m aiming for,” he explained.
“I’m not only performing better, I’m also on a mental path and have a leadership role. That’s perhaps not something for everyone as people but I’m enjoying it.”
O’Connor would race differently if he did not savor the challenge but does not intend to waste a career-defining opportunity.
“If I didn’t enjoy it, I’d adjust and just target stages in the mountains. I’d pull the parachute some days and sit in at the back of the peloton, there are easier ways to race a bike,” her explained.
“But I’d regret never discovering my full potential and making the most of it. You’ve got to try, right? You can only do your career once.”
O’Connor impressed by finishing third at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné behind Jumbo-Visma duo Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard. That performance and the result gave him a vital boost for the Tour de France.
“The Dauphiné was great. What did I get out of it? Confidence,” O’Connor said.
“I more or less found out that I’m not far away from the best in the world. Primož and Jonas Vingegaard are two big favourites for the Tour and the fact that I was able to dangle behind them and be amongst the best of the rest means you're up there fighting.
“I just hope to stay safe for three weeks, and then after all the fatigue of the Tour I hope I can be next to them or better. I can only race my best and the objective is the best GC result possible.”
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.