The Dimension Data soigneur jumped for joy and punched the air as Ben O’Connor took his solo victory at the Tour of the Alps in Merano. The 22-year-old Australia rider joined them in celebration as he realised he had pulled off a breakthrough victory and given the African team something to celebrate after a series of injuries to key riders.
O’Connor was Dimension Data’s protected rider for the Tour of the Alps as team leader Louis Meintjes quietly completes his build-up for the Giro d’Italia. O’Connor finished eighth on Tuesday’s mountain finish to Alpe di Pampeago, only losing contact in the final kilometre when Chris Froome attacked.
He had shown his potential with 11th place overall at the Volta a Catalunya and arrived at the Tour of the Alps after a long spell at altitude. When the Tour of the Alps peloton exploded on the gradual but constant slopes of the Passo dello Mendola, O’Connor decided he wanted to be part of the action.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and O’Connor emerged as the strongest at the summit of the successive Passo Palade. They were caught after a hectic chase led by Chris Froome, but O’Connor had the legs and the tactical instinct to go again, time trialling clear in the streets of Merano to win alone, five seconds ahead of Pinot and a select group of eight other riders.
“The attacks started going, but I felt good and so made sure I took on the race and was able to make most of it all. I saw Pinot go, I knew he was strong and so thought I might as well try to win it. That’s the essence of it,” O’Connor explained, a little stunned to win, but enjoying his moment on the podium and suddenly being the centre of the attention.
“Today is pretty amazing,” he said. “I started to get things together at Catalunya, and we could see the progression taking place. Now it’s nice to take on the race see it work out here. I didn’t really know what I was doing in the early races of my career, now I do.”
Helping Meintjes but aiming for the stars at the Giro d’Italia
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