Aussie Focus

O'Connor's laidback Aussie attitude refreshing at top of the Tour

Ben O’Connor believes the pressure and popularity associated with succeeding in cycling won’t change him as a person, even after a career-defining Tour de France.

From the highs of a stage-win in Tignes, to the lows of Mont Ventoux – it’s been a whirlwind three weeks for O’Connor.

The Australian has exceeded all expectations on his Tour debut, with a top-five finish within reach ahead of Stage 19’s passage from Mourenx to Libourne.

Having leapfrogged Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) into fourth place after a 129.7-kilometre journey through the Occitanie region, O’Connor now trails a place on the podium by 2’27”, with fifth-placed Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) breathing down his neck.

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But, regardless of how it all pans out, the 25-year-old maintains he will keep his feet firmly on the ground.

“I’m still going to be exactly the same bloke and that won’t change,” O’Connor said.

“That’s the main aspect I want to keep. Maybe other aspects of the racing scene will change but for me as a person, I’m still Ben O’Connor.

“I’m not going to be turning into a bad bloke any time soon.”

Such an outlook on life is unique amidst the pull of fame as an elite-level athlete and, according to compatriot David McKenzie, it’s part of what makes the AG2R-Citroen rider special.

“That’s not something, in my mind, that he’s training to be like. That’s just him naturally,” McKenzie told Christophe Mallet on the Zwift Cycling Central Podcast.



“He is confident in his own skin; he is happy in his own skin and with how he projects himself.

“So, when he gets on the bike to race and he’s around his peers, he’s not trying to be something else or someone else.

“He’s just like, ‘here I am, take me or leave me’, and he’s not brash – not at all, he’s very respectful – he’s just in this perfect place.

“There’s plenty of people in life that are good citizens of the world and are themselves and don’t try and be something else, but they’re not superstar sport athletes.

“What we’re seeing is a special athlete in Ben O’Connor and it’s really nice to see… Ben’s got something next level.”

'Next level' have undoubtedly been the performances put forth from the Subiaco native during this year's Tour, and with three years remaining on his contract, the future looks very bright for the ol' "bloke".

The Tour de France continues tonight with Stage 19 and you can catch all the action on SBS and SBS On Demand from 8:30pm (AEST), with the SKODA Tour Tracker app commencing at 8:05pm (AEST).


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3 min read
Published 16 July 2021 at 3:00pm
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS