O’Connor overcame a mass pile-up, deep wound and Mont Ventoux on his path to Paris, highlighted by a stage win in Tignes that saw the Australian move 27 places in the general classification rankings.
Such a performance exceeded all expectations AG2R-Citroen had of their signing, who was initially hired for the aggression he displayed during the 2020 Giro d’Italia.
Not even O’Connor could have conceived a fourth-placed finish in France, but, upon reflection, the 25-year-old now hopes he will one day don the maillot jaune too.
“Would you have bet money on me coming fourth in the Tour? I don’t think so,” O’Connor said.
“It’s by far the hardest race I’ve ever done, and ever will do. Mentally it’s very draining, you have to stay alert, concentrating, really make sure you don’t make any mistakes.
“The Tour is a lot more unforgiving than the Giro or Vuelta, that was sore.
“The Ventoux and yesterday in the time trial on the other hand was pretty horrible. For me in this Tour de France, handling it mentally has been the biggest challenge.
“My mentality yesterday was simply ‘never give up’ or crash. It’s the same today, then on top of that, just be careful on the Champs-Elysees. And then voila, finished.
“The yellow jersey was a long way off, another level and another game. I hope one day I can wear the maillot jaune, but I would have to progress in the same way as I did this year to get there.
“You never know.”
O’Connor will now embark on a month-long break before a potential return for the Deutschland Tour and, possibly, II Lombardia.