Australia's O'Connor climbs into Tour de France picture with Alpine win

Tadej Pogacar strengthened his grip on the yellow jersey on the final climb to Tignes.

O'Connor braved the conditions for an unforgettable stage win.
O'Connor braved the conditions for an unforgettable stage win.
Image: AP/PA Images

AUSTRALIAN CLIMBER BEN O’Connor soared to a high-altitude stage win on the Tour de France on a cold, rainy day that culminated in a 21km climb to Tignes.

UAE Emirates controlled the main contenders and their leader, defending champion Tadej Pogacar, again hurt his rivals and strengthened his hold on the Tour lead, while Citroen AG2R man O’Connor hauled himself into second in the overall standings.

O’Connor skipped up the 21km final climb to Tignes leaving other members of his breakaway group, including Colombian pair Nairo Quintana and Sergio Higuita, trailing in his wake.

“It’s mind-blowing, it can make your heart stop and it definitely did that to mine,” said a visibly thrilled O’Connor who dedicated the win to his happy Citroen-AG2R team, his family, girlfriend and mates back in Australia.

The temperature was in single figures Celsius and rain fell most of the day.

“Conditions were atrocious,” O’Connor said and riders looked frozen to the bone at the finish line, many trembling with cold.

Pogacar, 22, once again showed he is currently the strongest of the overall contenders as he dropped Ineos pair Geraint Thomas and Richie Carapaz with 4km to go, gaining another 30 seconds in his title defence.

© – AFP, 2021

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