Ben O’Connor will head back to his Grand Tour roots this year with a participation in the 2024 Giro d’Italia, his team announced on Thursday.
The Australian climber will further boost a high-class start list in the 2024 Giro d’Italia, already containing stage racing stars like Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Romain Bardet (dsm-firmenich-PostNL) and allrounders of the calibre of Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease A Bike).
For O’Connor, the Giro d’Italia was where the 28-year-old West Australian kicked off his three-week racing career and where he took his first Grand Tour stage in 2020, at Madonna di Campiglio.
Since that year he has not taken part in the Giro again, although in an interview with Cyclingnews last December, he said that a return could be on the cards in 2024.
Following that breakthrough win, O’Connor signed for his current French team, then branded AG2R Citroën, for 2021. He took a memorable lone stage victory in the Tour de France at Tignes that year en route to a career-best fourth place overall in Paris.
On Thursday Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale also released all their riders’ first three races of 2024, with O’Connor’s new Irish teammate, sprinter Sam Bennett, set to make his season and team debut in Tour de la Provence (February 8-11) before heading to the UAE Tour and Paris-Nice.
It is not yet clear whether O’Connor will back up the Giro d’Italia with a repeat participation in the Tour de France, although he told Cyclingnews in December that riding two Grand Tours was his goal for 2024.
In his December interview, O’Connor expressed a wish to return to the Giro d’Italia, following two difficult Julys. In the 2022 Tour, he abandoned after the injuries from a crash on stage 2 proved too much, while in 2023, after his difficult start because of illness, he bounced back to take part in two breakaways and provide key support for teammate Felix Gall as the Austrian built towards victory on the ultra-difficult Col de la Loze stage.
“I would like to do a change. I’d love to do the Giro but I’m on a French team and the Tour is super important,” he says. “I’m definitely going to do two Grand Tours next year, but I’m not sure which ones. I’d love to do the Giro again, that’s for sure, but the Tour is the Tour…”
So far the team has only released details of the opening segment of his calendar as well as revealing his participation in the Giro d’Italia.
O’Connor will kick off 2024 in the one-day Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia (Feb 10), follow that up with a…