AG2R Citroën team leader Ben O’Connor entered the Tour de France as a contender for the yellow jersey, but the Australian has been struck by injury, already sits 23:12 down on Tadej Pogačar in the GC and was struggling early on during stage 9.
“I got an injury, so yeah that's why I'm at the back of the bunch where I really shouldn't be,” O’Connor explained to Cyclingnews ahead of stage 9.
The Australian was dropped from the peloton several times during the early kilometres but fought back on after the break of the day was established. Given his injuries, it seems that surviving in the race is his main priority.
“I really just need to see if I get through today because I can't really do anything else,” he said despondently.
One of the frustrating elements of O’Connor’s injury is that it’s purely muscular, and so not visible to his teammates or rivals.
“I've got no road rash, it's literally just a muscular injury, so it might not look all dramatic. You might say it looks soft, but it’s a muscular injury, I can do nothing about it, you know?” he explained.
The result is that O’Connor has found himself mostly unable to pedal on one side.
“I’m pretty much pedalling with one leg,” he said. “So, yeah, it looks a little bit grim, and looks like I've lost my head,” he added. “But really, I just actually can't push.”
O’Connor lost four minutes on the cobbles of stage 6, and a further nine minutes on Saturday's stage into Lausanne, pushing him well out of contention in the GC standings, after finishing fourth in 2021.
Considering his form in the last few months, O’Connor still feels he’s in good shape for the race and may hope to target mountain stages if his injury subsides.
“I haven't lost any of my core, I was on the podium at Dauphine,” he pointed out.
“I was one of the strongest guys in the race, so it's a bit sad I’ve not been able to ride.”
Asked if he thought he could recover during the course of the race, O’Connor said: “If I finish today then maybe, but that's the first thing.”
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Peter Stuart has been editor of Cyclingnews since March 2022, overseeing editorial output across all of Cyclingnews' digital touchpoints.
Before joining Cyclingnews, Peter was the digital editor of Rouleur magazine. Starting life as a freelance feature writer, with bylines in The Times and The Telegraph, he first entered cycling journalism in 2012, joining Cyclist magazine as staff writer. Peter has a background as an international rower, representing Great Britain at Under-23 level and at the Junior Rowing World Championships.