Tadej Pogačar is 'pretty much untouchable' says Ben O'Connor

Fourth place finish at Tour de France still seems ridiculous, says Australian rider

Ben O'Connor
Ben O'Connor wins stage nine of the 2021 Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You have to be "realistic" about your chances of beating Tadej Pogačar at the Tour de France, Ben O'Connor has said, saying that the Slovenian is "pretty much untouchable".

In an interview with Cyclingnews, the Australian climber said that winning the Tour would be a "dream goal", but that aiming for overall victory there is a few steps away.

"Win the Tour?" O'Connor said. "No, you’ve jumped a couple of guns there. The idea of standing on the podium is really cool, too, but I haven’t got a number in mind. The number does mean a little bit but it just depends on how you race. Sometimes you go there and guys are gonna be stronger in that year or it’s not going to work out. 

"It would be a dream goal for the future, but it’s not like the next thing. You’ve got to think about your steps. It’s funny because it's maybe not how it turned out this year, but I want incremental goals, not silly goals."

>>> Fabio Jakobsen on aiming for the Tour de France, lawsuit against Groenewegen and supporting Cavendish

Asked about the way Pogačar dominated this year's Tour, the Australian said: "The guy is pretty much untouchable, really. There are very few people in the world who would say they could beat him, so you’ve got to be realistic."

In his first year with AG2R Citroën, O'Connor won a stage of the Tour and clung on to finish fourth overall. He was the only rider in the top ten aside from Pogačar to win a stage, and his fourth place was the third-best result by an Australian at the Tour, behind only Cadel Evans and Richie Porte

“It feels a bit silly now to think I did that,” he said. “When you actually reflect on it, it becomes a little more real, but it still seems ridiculous. It’s just not what you ever thought would happen, especially in your first Tour.”

He has already resigned with the team, extending his contract until 2024, one of only six riders who have such a length contract at AG2R.

Speaking to Procycling magazine earlier this year, O'Connor explained: "I have confidence in myself, confidence in my team, and the team is confident in me too. I always believed I had talent for bike racing, but never did the stars line up."

Following this year's Tour, the Australian only raced at the Deutschland Tour and the Tour of Luxembourg, and failed to finish the Giro dell'Emilia. He explained: "It didn’t really matter, because all the success had come before."

“I can only look back proudly on my season," he said. "Because everything was more consistent than I’ve ever been before. It was a massive progression. You meet the expectations that others had put on you in the past but which never worked out, for all sorts of reasons."

Going into 2022, O'Connor is aware that he will need to build on his success of the past season. He will now surely be the first man down on the AG2R Tour start list.

"Next year is a year of proving yourself, of backing up, of proving what you’ve done for just one year," he said. "That’s what it’s always like in cycling. You have one-hit wonders but there needs to be a second album, there needs to be consistency. That’s where next year falls in."

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1