Australian Ben O’Connor, using Campagnolo equipment, helped AG2R CITROËN TEAM to their strongest finish in Australia for eight years.
While many of the WorldTour riders builded fitness at their January training camps – for Campagnolo-using AG2R CITROËN TEAM, the Valencia region of Spain is a common winter destination – the racing’s already begun with the Santos Tour Down Under concluding on Sunday (22nd January).
And it was a strong start to the 2023 season for AG2R CITROËN TEAM’s Ben O’Connor who finished sixth overall.
The final stage saw the riders face 112.5km of action from Unley to Mount Lofty, the core of the stage comprising four passes of a 25km loop through the Adelaide Hills. As the stage rolled on, three riders broke from the pack – Jay Vine, Simon Yates and O’Connor – with Yates ultimately taking the win for second on GC.
Vine finished second to secure the overall title, while O’Connor picked up his best stage finish of the fledgling season in third.
“I was really motivated to achieve a good result on this last stage,” Australian O’Connor said after the race. “The route was a good match for my qualities; the team did a great job in trying to make the tempo harder. On my side, I felt that I had good legs. I’m happy to have been able to respond on the last climb, but I’m still disappointed that I didn’t manage to win the stage against [Simon] Yates and [Jay] Vine. But I want to keep the positive side: it was a great week to go back to school. Everyone in the team was up to the task. We will have another chance together to win the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race next Sunday.”
Although the clock’s only just ticked past mid-January, O’Connor’s already racked up four top-10s in 2023: third on stage five followed ninth on stage three plus sixth overall, followed seventh at O’Connor’s national championships earlier in the month.
For each world-class effort, the 27-year-old used Campagnolo’s Super Record 12-speed electronic groupset in sync with Campagnolo’s Bora Ultra WTO wheels.
Connor’s sixth overall is AG2R CITROËN TEAM’s best result at the Tour Down Under since Domenico Pozzovivo mirrored that finishing position in 2015.
Elsewhere at the Tour Down Under, AG2R CITROËN TEAM’s Dorian Godon also looked in fine form, finishing seventh in the 133.2km stage from Port Willunga to Willunga Township.
In Northern Europe, there was further race action at the 39th Classica Comunitat Valenciana in Spain. The opening race of the European calendar has run since 1969, albeit there was a hiatus between 2006 and 2020 with the race returning in 2021.
The 190km parcours started in Valencia before weaving its way south to La Nucia in the corner of the Costa where so many professional riders undergo winter training camps. The opening section’s flat with the race becoming increasingly hilly as the kilometres roll by.
But the rolling terrain held no fears for AG2R CITROËN TEAM’s Andrea Vendrame, who crossed the line fifth in a sprint finish. Arnaud De Lie took the win.
It’s a strong start to 2023 for 28-year-old Italian Vendrame, who’ll be looking to replicate his form of 2021 where he won stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia as well as taking out the points classification title at the Route d’Occitanie.
Suffice to say, the 2023 race season has well and truly begun.
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