AN AUSTRALIAN MAY BE FRANCE’S NEXT TOUR DE FRANCE HOPE

Watching fellow Australian Jai Hindley win cycling’s Giro d’Italia has boosted Ben O’Connor’s belief that he can win the Tour de France, the AG2R leader said Thursday. Speaking at his team camp ahead of the eight-day Criterium du Dauphine that starts Sunday, O’Connor expressed high ambitions. Climbing specialist O’Connor was fourth on the 2021 Tour de France after a magnificent ascent to the Alpine ski resort at Tignes, and like Hindley, he comes from Perth, Australia.

“I used to hope to become a general classification rider. Now I am a general classification rider,” said the French team’s leader.

O’Connor was surprised by his stage win at Tignes, taken on a cold, rainy day, but says that, above all, it had given him self-belief.

“My Tour adventure last year was extraordinary. To win a stage and finish fourth overall in Paris is something huge. And I did it,” he said.

“I feel capable of aiming for the top this summer,” he said the Tour de France which embarks from Copenhagen, Denmark on June 30.

Cadel Evans is the only Australian to have won the Tour de France, and Hindley became only the second man from Down Under to win a Grand Tour when he sealed the Giro d’Italia on Sunday. O’Connor said watching his compatriot affected him deeply.

“It was encouraging to see my friend Jai Hindley win the Giro,” said O’Connor, who warms up for the Tour at the Criterium du Dauphine next week.

“He is also from Perth and we have known each other for a long time. When I saw him win, I told myself I can do it too.”

“I’m still developing physically and my level is rising naturally. I am 26 years old and the years of hard work are starting to pay off.”

RBA/AFP Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency

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