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Ben O'Connor, the best Australian yellow jersey hope at the Tour de France, is not ruling out a podium finish at the world's greatest cycle race.
Ben O'Connor reckons he's taking a leaf out of his mate Jai Hindley's book as he seeks to prove a "battling Aussie underdog" can win the world's greatest bike race.
The Perth rider, fourth on debut in last year's Tour de France, insists he's not ruling out the prospect of this time becoming just the third Australian ever to finish on the podium.
And O'Connor cites the astonishing breakthrough of his West Australian buddy Hindley at the Giro as an inspiration for all nine Aussies starting Le Tour in Copenhagen on Friday.
"What he did just shows that with hard work you don't have to be the big favourite to win big races," O'Connor told AAP.
Speaking from AG2R Citroen team's base at the Grand Depart venue in Denmark on Wednesday, he added: "That's what I enjoyed about his win so much - it was very much an Australian thing. Australians love the battling underdog."
O'Connor played that role adroitly himself in 2021 when, following a wretched crash on the opening stage, he rebounded with a staggering stage-nine solo win into Tignes, the platform for him to finish fourth behind runaway back-to-back winner and 2022 favourite, Tadej Pogacar.
Could the 26-year-old this time join Cadel Evans, who earned three top-three finishes in five years topped by his historic 2011 triumph, and Richie Porte (2020) as the only Aussies to make the podium in 108 editions?
"I don't think it's out of the question," O'Connor responded.
"It's a grand tour, lots of things can go wrong. You need a bit of luck and, hopefully, things can go my way.
"I finished where I deserved last year, but the clear, main objective is to try to finish top five again. I feel that's an objective I actually can do. Just to race with the best guys at the front, that's the main thing."
O'Connor's French team have invested their faith in their Australian leader, choosing a squad designed to protect him over the treacherous early cobbles and shepherd him in the mountains over three murderous weeks and 3350km.
And he's ready for that responsibility.
"If I was scared of the pressure, I wouldn't want to do it," he said.
"You shouldn't be scared, you should revel in it - I should be confident enough to realise that I'm good, that I'm not going to f*** it up."
And last year, he did realise he was good, that he could live with the big boys.
"It definitely changed me a lot - and 100 per cent confirmed after a complicated start that I could perform day after day after day in the biggest race in the world without even preparing specifically for it."
This year, after his third place in the key warm-up Dauphine race, he reckoned "it's all very clear to myself that I can fight with those guys at the front."
But he knows the monumental effort it will take to emulate Evans, the greatest Aussie cyclist of all.
"When he won, I was a kid still very much in love that year with cricket and football, so it was a sporting triumph but not in a sport I loved," reflected O'Connor.
"It wasn't until last year that I began to appreciate the magnitude of what he'd done by winning the tour.
"You only get one career so, of course, you give it all to do the same."