O’Connor’s stage victory propelled him to the top of the overall standings, even finishing second overall for a few days. But despite the setbacks of Mont Ventoux in particular, the Australian dug deep to maintain his place in the global battle.The 25-year-old was naturally moved at the finish line of the second time trial of the Tour, where he pushed back Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) to finish narrowly ahead of the Dutchman in the general classification.
Kelderman finished 21 seconds ahead of the final TT, but O’Connor’s 31st place was enough to keep him on course to stay fourth in Paris, 11 seconds behind his rival.
Suddenly, the Australian will clinch this decisive fourth-place result in Paris, by far his best result of his five Grand Tours to date. His previous best performance in a GC was 20th at the Giro d’Italia 2020 where he also won a stage.
“I felt really moved yesterday (Friday) just thinking about the Tour de France and being able to sit close to the front because you deserved it,” O’Connor said at the line.
O’Connor had an uneventful time trial, but he described the second time trial of the Tour, which took place in intense heat through the fields and vineyards east of Bordeaux like “super-horrible. But I’m super happy to be fourth ”.
After Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers) secured third place overall in the Tour last year, O’Connor’s fourth place is the second time an Australian has finished in the top five of the first cycling race in so many years.
But while Porte has been a well-established figure in stage races for a decade, O’Connor said finishing so close to the podium was “a new step for me”.
For the French team AG2R-Citroën, after years where their overall aspirations were mainly focused on Romain Bardet, O’Connor’s result now places the team with a new perspective on the Tour de France.
“It’s a new direction for them too, with an Australian in a France team,” he said.
O’Connor is rumored to lead his team at Vuelta a España, but his upcoming race schedule has yet to be confirmed.