The Tour of the Alps concluded today in Innsbruck with Mark Padun (Bahrain-Merida) winning the final stage, but it was Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) who won the race overall. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Ben O’Connor secure 7th place overall and in doing so, our young Australian also won the best young rider white jersey competition.
The final stage of the Tour of Alps was another action-packed affair, packaged in a 164km route that included 3 ascents of the Olympia climb, the same climb which will be used at the 2018 World Road Race Championships. The early racing saw our Igor Anton form part of a 9 rider breakaway but the stage would always be decided by the GC favourites on the Olympia climb.
Anton was reeled in on the first ascent of Olympia with around 40km to go, while the remnants of the break were caught on the penultimate ascent, due to a high tempo set by Astana and Team Sky. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) then pulled a gap on the descent and started the final climb with a small lead. Pinot put in a stinging attack to bridge to Lopez upfront, and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) joined them too.
O’Connor suffered an untimely mechanical as the leading trio surged ahead, but fortunately after quick assistance from our team car the young Australian was back in the chase group. The leading riders did not work well after sumitting the final climb and were subsequently caught with 4.5km to go.
Padun then took his chance, putting in a solo attack and quickly gained a 10 second lead on his 9 chasers. The Ukranian made it all the way to the finish, taking a fine stage win. O’Connor was 5th across the line, another strong result by our 22-year-old. On the general classification, O’Connor would finish 7th overall, a result that also saw him ride away with the best young rider white jersey.
Ben O’Connor – Rider
Today was another day of tough racing, around the World Champs course. Sky took the race on initially but then it was Astana who really forced the pace on the 2nd time up the climb and blew the race to pieces. I was feeling really good and was ready try something similar to the other day, when I won, but I had a really untimely puncture on the last climb. I had a big chase and got back to Chris Froome and the onus was on him to ride. It was only down at the bottom of the descent were it all regrouped.
The team was really helpful too, getting me into position before getting onto the circuit, which was crucial. I didn’t have to spend any unnecessary energy and then it was down to my legs on the circuit.
I got a few seconds back over some of our rivals which allowed me to move up a spot on GC. Finishing in 7th is absolutely amazing and winning the white jersey, it was something I looked at but I wasn’t absolutely sure I could do it. So, this week has given me a massive confidence boost, knowing I can be up there on GC and ride with the best guys in the world. The way the team has helped me develop is something I think no other team would have allowed me to do, so a big thank you to the team.
I think this week was just what our Giro team needed, we needed to take the race on, get a result and have our confidence boosted ahead of the Giro. The stage win this week was much needed, because that’s the point of what we do, we race to win and be part of the final’s. Every time we do so, Qhubeka gets represented as it should and people begin to realise what our teams purpose is.