Ben O’Connor on Tour de France pavé: ‘I will be shitting myself tomorrow’

Australian sensation trying to avoid 'nothing crashes' that can torpedo a GC contender in the first week.

Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

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CALAIS, France (VN) — Ben O’Connor knows he has only one task for Wednesday’s cobblestone stage, and that’s to make it to the finish line alongside all the Tour de France favorites.

O’Connor will be counting on his Ag2r-Citroën teammates to help him navigate the Paris-Roubaix-inspired stage 5 across the fields of northern France.

“To best honest, I am OK,” O’Connor told VeloNews. “In 2018 most of the GC guys finished together, and I know Romain Bardet had something like five punctures and three changed bikes, and he finished 10 seconds behind.

“It’s more of a danger for crashing and crashing out of the race than actual time loss. It’s more of a question of finishing with the favorites.”

“I am not too nervous now, but I will be shitting myself tomorrow,” he added with a laugh.

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The Australian sensation is coming into this Tour with one eye on the horizon line waiting in the Alps and Pyrénées, where he is confident his climbing legs will shine.

First he knows he needs to limit any more losses for the rest of this week.

“For me, it’s that, minimizing errors, not getting lost in the wind, trying not to crash, and getting into the mountains and doing what you can do,” he said.

“I know in the mountains I should be up there with the top guys.”

O’Connor’s start to the 2022 Tour wasn’t what he was expecting. He was a bit off his sharpest in the opening time trial, and then was caught up in a pileup in stage 1.

“I did a bit of a front flip on the first stage, but it’s only a bruise,” he said. “The time trial wasn’t the best but nothing bad’s happened so far, and the race is long.

“You can see already the other day there was a 40-second time loss with some of the other favorites, and it was a ‘nothing crash.’ So every single moment adds up, and you try to minimize that.”

For O’Connor, it’s about limiting his losses, trying not to crash on the pavé, and then hope his legs are even better than they were at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June.

Sometimes no drama is good drama, at least for riders in the bunch.

“There were quite a lot of small roads in Denmark and it could have been really interesting in the right direction,” he said. “Even like today. Sometimes it can be 50kph winds here, but it’s going to be nothing. It’s just how it goes. It cannot be theater every day.”

He started Tuesday’s stage in 48th at 1:08 back. That’s already nearly a one-minute handicap to Tadej Pogačar. He doesn’t want to give away anything else before the mountains.

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