Undoubtedly the highlight of Ben O'Connor's 2023 came at the Critérium du Dauphiné. The Australian leader of the AG2R Citroën Team finished third overall in the race behind Jonas Vingegaard and Adam Yates.
"In the Critérium du Dauphiné it went exactly as I wanted. There I finished third, behind Jonas Vingegaard and Adam Yates. That was the place I deserved," O'Connor reflects in conversation with In de Leiderstrui. "Jonas and Adam are among the very best classification men of the moment, so that is a great result. I even expect Jonas to end up in the list of 'Grand Tour greats' in the future. It's pretty sick to be close behind them in such a race."
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Although both of Vingegaard and Yates would also finish on the podium at the Tour de France the following month, O'Connor was forced to settle for stage hunting after losing time early on. "In the Tour it didn't go at all the way I wanted," he laments. "In general, I am really pleased with last year, although there were a few disappointments that touched my heart."
"One of them was missing out on a stage win in that Tour. I dropped out of the rankings and had to focus on stage success. Changing goals is not a problem for me, as long as those new goals are achieved," O'Connor continues. "Ultimately missing out on that stage victory really hurt. I had two good chances, but came third twice. I blamed myself for that."
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Having finished fourth overall at the 2021 Tour de France, O'Connor has shown significant Grand Tour classification pedigree. In 2024, he intends to get back to challenging at the biggest races, although he admits wins will be a challenge. "It is difficult to win in many races anyway, since Jonas and Tadej Pogacar participate. You have to be realistic and accept that you are probably racing for third place," he explains.
"In that context, I would think it would be great if I could achieve more podium places in WorldTour multi-day events. And my ultimate goal is to one day be on the final podium of a Grand Tour," he concludes. "I would like to participate in two Grand Tours next year. I don't know yet what the team wants, but if it were up to me it would be a combination of the Giro and the Tour. The Giro is highest on my list. I could just see what happens next. After all, we are a French team and the Tour is the most important thing."