‘It’s a dream’: Australian O’Connor breaks away to mountain stage victory at Giro d’Italia

Australia’s Ben O’Connor has taken out his first stage win in a Grand Tour by winning the 17th stage of the Giro d’Italia in a spectacular summit finish.

The 24-year-old took victory on the mountainous 203-kilometre leg from Bassano del Grappo to Madonna di Campiglio, which featured four categorised climbs.

He raced clear of the rest of the breakaway 7 kilometres from the summit, in a move that proved decisive.

O’Connor had narrowly missed winning Tuesday’s stage but had no such trouble on Wednesday, finishing 31 seconds ahead of second-placed Hermann Persteiner.

“Yesterday’s second place left me feeling pretty bitter,” O’Connor, who rides for NTT Pro Cycling said.


“Maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet but when I crossed the line there was full gas crying, so it means a lot.

Asked about the move that got him his first stage win in a Grand Tour, O’Connor said it was not planned.

“There was no real pace, everyone was looking at each other and I felt good so I thought, ‘Why not?'” he said.


Almeida retains pink jersey

While O’Connor took the stage win, Joao Almeida remained in the pink jersey for the overall lead.

Almeida was part of the group of overall favourites that crossed the summit finish more than five minutes after O’Connor, and the Portuguese cyclist, who rides for the Deceuninck-Quick Step team, remained 17 seconds ahead of second-placed Wilco Kelderman.

O’Connor’s fellow Australian Jai Hindley is third overall, 2:58 behind Almeida on the eve of the Giro’s toughest stage.

Kelderman and Hindley, who both ride for Team Sunweb, tried to attack on the final climb up to Madonna di Campiglio but Almeida marked the moves.

“Today it was a hard day, a lot of climbing but I had the perfect team with me,” Almeida said.

“Team Sunweb tried to attack but I was feeling good.”

The winner of the race will likely be decided on the next stage — the toughest in this year’s edition of the famed race.

The so-called “Queen stage” features four classified climbs, three of which are the highest category, on the 207km route from Pinzolo to Laghi di Cancano.

One of those is the iconic Stelvio pass, which also has 48 hairpin turns.

The climb over the Stelvio is likely to prove decisive for the overall win, especially after Giro organisers announced they had been forced to alter Saturday’s penultimate stage, cutting out two of the most difficult climbs of the race.

French authorities had withdrawn their approval for the Giro to cross into France because of new restrictions following the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country.

The 20th stage will no longer go up the Colle dell’Agnello and cross into France for the Col d’Izoard, but will instead climb to Sestriere three times on an altered 190km route.