O'Connor: high-voltage Ruta del Sol finale was 'racing people want to see'

ALCALA LA REAL SPAIN FEBRUARY 17 Ben Alexander Oconnor of Australia and Ag2R Citroen Team crosses the finishing line during the 68th Vuelta A Andalucia Ruta Del Sol 2022 Stage 2 a 1506km stage from Archidona to Alcal La Real 982m 68RdS on February 17 2022 in Alcala la Real Spain Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images
Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

A dramatic day's racing on stage 4 of the Ruta del Sol culminating in a mass attack by the GC favourites offered one of the most memorable days in recent race history, and as one lead protagonist, Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën] put it, "we gave it a good go all day."

Part of the lead group of contenders in ninth across the line has pushed O'Connor into eighth overall, just 21 seconds behind new race leader Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) before Sunday's toughest stage.

The non-stop attacking in the last 50 kilometres as the 15-rider leaders began fighting for both the overall and the stage win was "fun to be in and the racing people want to see for sure," O'Connor said.

The 26-year-old put in one of the more dangerous attacks from the winning move before Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) went clear. He, Lutsenko and 2021 Giro d'Italia runner-up Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) formed a powerful three-man attack for around five kilometres.

But as O'Connor said that "the problem with that move was I was higher on GC than Lutsenko and Caruso, so it made me harder for me to get away with them.

"I picked a good move, just not the right one."

O'Connor said he'd been on the case when the breakaway went over the two first category climbs early on which proved such fertile terrain for blowing the race apart and dropping previous race leader Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates).

"On the first part it was all lit up really hard, and I saw a chance to keep pushing on, so I kind of gave it a go and the race was pretty much done from then on," he recounted.

"It's a shame not to get the win today but it was really hard with the numbers." O'Connor was the sole AG2R Citroen rider in the breakaway, unlike Astana Qazaqstan and Bahrain Victorious who had three or four riders present respectively. "There was not a lot else I could do. But that's how it goes."

Still, as he said, the Ruta del Sol peloton put on a memorable show on a stage that theoretically looked doomed to end with little to no GC action. And on top of that, even though his three-up move was caught, O'Connor went down with all guns blazing as he tried another attack to chase down Poels and Lutsenko late on.

"Yes, but by the end, I was dying that's for sure," he concluded. "Though I'm not surprised, my legs can't be Tour de France ready at the moment.

"But I was feeling pretty good and everybody was on the limit today. And it was nice to have a super-aggressive race today."

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.