Ben O’Connor has come of age: the Australian returns to the Tour of the Alps

Ben O’Connor has come of age: the Australian returns to the Tour of the Alps

Decathlon AG2R-La Mondiale's captain is one of the many youngsters who broke out at the Tour of the Alps. Following his stage victory in Merano and securing the young rider classification in 2018, O'Connor is set to return to the Euregio roads with significant ambitions from April 15 to 19.

It was April 17, 2018, when the Tour of the Alps reached the Alpe di Pampeago, and a relatively unknown 22-year-old Australian stood out in the leading group during the final climb. The next day, the Dimension Data rider made a decisive move 8 kilometers from the finish in Meran/Merano, successfully soloing to victory.

Six years have passed, and today Ben O'Connor is an established athlete who finished fourth in the 2021 Tour de France and claimed stage victories in both the Grande Boucle and the Giro d'Italia. Yet, his experience at the Tour of the Alps remains a cherished memory, fueling his eagerness to compete once again on the Trentino, Südtirol/Alto Adige and Tirol roads from April 15 to 19, 2024.

“I loved that race and the region,” O'Connor reminisces. “As a young rider, I was a little unsure of how I would perform, but I remember my Sports Director Alexandre Sans Vega saying that I could win that stage before the race started. I didn't believe him, so it was then really cool that it all came together for that stage win and the best young rider jersey at the end of the week.”

O'Connor credits the 2018 Tour of the Alps as a pivotal moment early in his professional career, which significantly contributed to his development as a leading rider for Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale.

"The Tour of the Alps 2018 showed me I could become a GC rider. At the moment, I obviously now take on a lot of responsibility to perform for my team and directly to the teammates who sacrifice their races for the cause. Being a leader now means gathering them together in a group where we all know our roles and execute them”, admits O'Connor.

The 2024 Tour of the Alps is a crucial juncture for Ben O’Connor and Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale, setting the stage for their run to the Giro d'Italia. While O’Connor clinched a stage win in Madonna di Campiglio at the 2020 Giro, this year he aims to target the general classification with ambitions.

"The Tour of the Alps is a great physical challenge with many climbs, so it’s the perfect testing ground for your physiology. Moreover, it’s also a super nice area to ride, with great roads, so mentally, it’s a nice way to prepare. We will ride aggressively and confidently. This is a moment to test the whole team before the Giro, so we have to be ready to take on the race and hopefully take a lot of confidence home with us”, explains the Australian.

This season, O'Connor has already celebrated a victory at the Vuelta a Murcia, in Spain, and secured a challenging uphill finish at the UAE Tour, finishing second overall. At the Tirreno-Adriatico, he placed fifth in the general classification, showcasing his strong form.

As a climber, O’Connor is eager to exploit the Tour of the Alps’ mountainous stages, providing a prime opportunity to shine and entertain.

"Every day concludes with a proper finale, starting from the very first stage, which will be immediately selective. Stage 3 and 4 are challenging and for me will decide who wins the race”, O'Connor analyses.

Ben O’Connor has grown as a rider and is determined to return to the Tour of the Alps with a victory in mind.

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