Despite a “shocking” time trial at the Australian Championships to start his 2018 season, Ben O’Connor is confident of a strong showing at the Santos Tour Down Under next week. The Dimension Data rider quickly moved on from “the day to forget” with an active ride in the nationals road race, his performance gaining attention and earning the tag of a rider to watch in the battle for the ochre jersey at the WorldTour opener.
O’Connor and Lachlan Morton will be key riders for 2013 Tour Down Under champion Tom-Jelte Slagter in the six-stage race starting Tuesday. The 22-year-old though is looking to take an opportunity to add to his Tour of Austria stage from last year should the option present itself in Uraidla or on Willunga Hill, where Richie Porte is seeking a fifth successive win.
“I still think for Willunga it is Richie’s hill. It is pretty incredible what he can do there. It would be great to try,” O’Connor told Cyclingnews in Adelaide. “That Norton Summit stage could maybe be a chance to open up but it is quite quick though. I don’t know if anything would work but you may as well try. We have former winner Tom-Jelte Slagter so we have confidence. You can go late and get the bonus seconds and that is where you get your advantage from.
“It would be nice to be in a WorldTour race and hopefully be deep into those finales as part of the race instead of just racing and holding on. I am looking forward to seeing how it pans out like that.”
At 1.88 metres tall, O’Connor is hard to miss in the peloton but it was a solo breakaway on the People’s Choice Classic ahead of the 2017 Tour Down Under that drew attention to the West Australian. O’Connor would finish the race in 32nd place, riding in assistance of Nathan Haas, who placed fourth overall.
Looking back at his first season in the WorldTour ranks, O’Connor says the solo breakaway is one thing that he won’t be replicating in year two.
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