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MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy (VN) – Persistence paid off for Ben O’Connor (NTT Pro Cycling) at the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday.
The day after the young Australian was bettered by Jan Tratnik and took second on the stage to San Danieli del Friuli, O’Connor powered away from his breakaway rivals to scoop a breakout stage win that will put his team in the spotlight when they need it most.
“Yesterday was so close, so to pull it off today, in the mountains I dream of, there was full-gas crying when I crossed the line … it means a lot,” O’Connor said after the stage.
O’Connor crossed the line in tears to share an emotional celebration with team staffers. With officials from NTT Pro Cycling confirming last month that the team would be losing its title sponsor in 2021, Doug Ryder’s squad was in desperate need of some media time having not scored a victory since Paris-Nice in March.
O’Connor duly stepped up to help his team boss in the search for new backers.
“The point of racing is to win races. And that’s why the sponsors join a team, to show themselves to the media,” O’Connor said. “And victory as an athlete is what you strive for. So I hope it’s a really positive saving grace and can help Doug [Ryder] in finding a future, not only for us as riders but for all the staff.”
O’Connor enjoyed a fruitful sophomore season with NTT in 2018, taking a stage win and top-10 GC position at Tour of the Alps, but went on simmer in 2019. Having been aggressive through the Giro so far, Wednesday’s stage win and near-miss Tuesday is a testament to the 24-year-old’s staying power.
“It’s easy to be inspired when the people around you need the inspiration,” O’Connor said of his ability to bounce back from the disappointment the day before. “This team really needed this win, I really needed this win, my family and my friends also, because there’s a lot of faith that people put in you. When you’re second, you’re so close and it’s always that [snaps fingers] – you wish you could have done it.”
While O’Connor is out of contract with NTT Pro Cycling at the end of the year, he confirmed at the post-race press conference that he has a new team for the season to come, so ensuring he continues his blossoming pro career.
Doug Ryder and his NTT Pro Cycling staffers will be hoping the Aussie’s stage victory helps them also ink a deal before the season is out.