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Ben O’Connor: I didn’t have Tadej Pogačar’s trajectory but I like my progression

Australian targets Tour de Romandie podium as he continues to build an impressive body of work.

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (VN) — Ben O’Connor (Ag2r-Citroën) cut a content and satisfied figure at the start of stage 1 of the Tour de Romandie.

The Australian had rattled off a solid opening prologue on day one and better was to come at the end of the first road stage with a fine sixth place that would catapult him up the standings and into 13th overall.

O’Connor has bigger ambitions than just the top 15 in this year’s race with a step on the podium the ultimate ambition. The form is clearly on the right track, despite illness wrecking his Paris-Nice attempt in March. The 26-year-old was sixth overall and a stage win in Catalunya a few weeks ago. and then backed that up with another victory at the Tour du Jura Cycliste.

“The form is coming along and I’m ready to see if I can finish on the podium,” he told VeloNews. “I’m confident that it can happen but it’s bike racing, you do your best. The season has been good so far, apart from getting really, really sick in Paris-Nice. Catalunya went well and it showed that I can be there race after race with the GC boys.

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“A podium here would be ideal. We might as well aim for it. I’ve now done enough top 10s in the last year, so it would be nice to finish in the top three. I can say this because it can actually happen. I was happy with the prologue and maybe could have taken one or two more risks but the power and everything was good. The guys in front of me just have a bit more power.”

O’Connor came onto the scene as a highly promising neo-pro with Dimension Data back in 2017. Much was expected of him in those early years, and while there were obvious flashes of his class on the bike, it took time for him to really develop into the consistent professional that he is today.

Having finished fourth and won a stage in the Tour de France last year he has reached a new level, and while it’s unclear how far he can go at this point, the Australian is pleased with the path and speed of his progression.

“Maybe it’s just about learning and growing into cycling. It just takes time,” he said.

“Maybe it’s not the same as Tadej [Pogačar] and guys like this, and Egan [Bernal] as well, who can come in and take the piss and are winning grand tours straight away. That’s not the trajectory that I’ve been given, so it’s been about gradually getting better and better rather than being at the top from day one. I know what it feels like to be shit in a bike race. I like how my progression happened.

“I was a bit new when I came in, and I honestly hadn’t done a lot of cycling. It’s easy to say that everything is expanentonal but it’s not. Just like any financial market or business, it’s never a straight line. If it is then you’re very lucky.”

O’Connor will aim to be in the mix on the key stages in the Tour de Romandie at the weekend. After that, he will take a short break before dialing in his focus for the Tour de France.

“I have a little break after this, then we go to altitude, then the Dauphine, and the Tour de France. It’s all pretty simple,” he said.