The Aussie climbing ace had a first-class ticket on the Jumbo-Visma pain-train as Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard unleashed a devastating one-two that laid a marker for the Tour de France.
“There’s not a lot you can do in that situation,” O’Connor told reporters Sturday.
O’Connor was right on the wheel when Vingegaard ratcheted the pace to 11 on the front of the Vajany-climbing GC group at the close of Saturday’s stage.
But when Roglič unleashed a characteristic rocketship blast for the line, his Tour de France rival was rumbled.
“It was the jump that he [Roglič] got me on. I mean, he was definitely the strongest here,” O’Connor said. “There’s not much else I can say, but I’m pretty happy. That’s probably the closest I have gotten to him, so it’s an improvement.”
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Saturday’s multi-mountain Alpine slog showed hints at what O’Connor might see from Jumbo-Visma at the Tour in three weeks time.
Vingegaard and Roglič will co-captain their Dutch powerhouse squad at the Tour next month. Their two-prong assault Saturday was a ruthless one-two that could be deployed against arch-rival Tadej Pogačar in weeks to come.
“You try and follow Primož and if you can’t follow him there’s not a lot you can do. You still have to keep riding. It might seem like you lose, but if I sit up then the others come close [to me],” O’Connor said.
“You just keep riding but when a team has two guys over the top, there’s not much else you can do.”
O’Connor, fourth in last year’s Tour, finished Saturday as first chaser behind Roglič, Vingegaard, and breakaway winner Carlos Verona.
The 26-year-old outpaced Tour selection candidates like Esteban Chaves (EF Education EasyPost), Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), and David Gaudu (Groupama FDJ) to reconfirm his credentials as a podium contender for this year’s French three-weeker.
“I’m just happy that I’m there racing with the best guys, and so close to the Tour de France also,” he said.
Now third overall with less than 20 seconds’ advantage over three classification riders, O’Connor is chasing what could be the best result of a consistently strong season so far.
“There’s still one more day to go, so hopefully I can pull it off and get a finish on the podium,” he said.