Rising cycling star Ben O’Connor says it was a “magical moment” to finish fourth in his debut Tour de France, with commentators backing the 25-year-old as a potential future winner of the race.
- Ben O’Connor achieved the best ever debut by an Australian in the Tour de France
- He won the gruelling ninth stage in the Alps
- He is only the fourth Australian ever to finish in the top five
O’Connor became just the fourth Australian to finish in the top five in the Tour, joining Cadel Evans, Richie Porte and Phil Anderson in an elite group of riders.
The West Australian was just three minutes shy of a podium finish and 10 minutes behind winner Tadej Pogačar, and overcame a difficult start to produce a breakout performance in one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
Earlier in the race he won a gruelling mountain stage in the Alps in a dominant display, making him just the 14th Australian to win a stage in the Tour.
Making the performance all the more impressive, O’Connor was injured in a stage 1 crash that also cost him significant time.
O’Connor, from Perth, said he was “very proud” of his performance.
“It is a magical moment,” he told SBS after reaching the Champs-Élysées in Paris overnight.
He said he was overwhelmed by the support he had received from Australia during the race.
“It means a lot when I can’t come back home,” he said.
“It is special to me.”
O’Connor tipped to become household name
O’Connor’s Tour debut was the best ever recorded by an Australian rider.
The 2011 winner, Cadel Evans, finished eighth on debut, while Australian cycling legend Phil Anderson finished 10th on his first attempt.
SBS cycling commentator Matt Keenan said O’Connor had an extremely bright future ahead of him.
“That’s not to say that Ben O’Connor will win the Tour de France one day — but it shows he has the potential to do so,” he said.
Evans and Porte are the only Australians to ever finish on the podium in Paris.
Keenan said he thought O’Connor could finish in the top 10 going into the race, but was blown away by his “extraordinary” showing.
“I really didn’t think he would finish in the top five. It was exceptional, and a huge performance,” he said.
“He will become a household name in Australia for sure.”