Slow-burner Ben­nett aims to catch Bardet

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Ge­orge Ben­nett ad­mits he’s been left be­hind a bit re­cently but the 27-year-old New Zealan­der is de­ter­mined to catch up. Ben­nett used to rub shoul­ders with the likes of two-time Grand Tour winner Nairo Quin­tana and last year’s Tour run­ner-up from France, Ro­main Bardet in the ju­nior sec­tions.

But while his two peers have gone on to be­come two of the best rid­ers in the world, Ben­nett’s progress was slow and steady in com­par­i­son. How­ever, fol­low­ing a great ride on the bru­tal ninth stage of the Tour de France on Sun­day, he climbed up to 10th in the stand­ings. And that comes in a year in which he be­came the first New Zealan­der to win a World Tour event, May’s Tour of Cal­i­for­nia.

Ben­nett knows he’s not at the level of Quin­tana and Bardet now, but he be­lieves he has the abil­ity to get there, as he demon­strated on Sun­day. “I didn’t think I’d be able to go with those guys (the favourites) on Sun­day, so that was pretty cool,” said the Lotto-Jumbo rider. “They at­tacked and I fol­lowed them, and then I was with a cou­ple of guys, maybe five guys or some­thing, and I re­gret­ted it in­stantly and went out the back, and then waited for Yatesy (Si­mon Yates) a lit­tle bit at the top of the hill. “We went down there and caught up Nairo (Quin­tana) and Dan (Martin) and ripped it home.”

‘VERY GOOD CLIMBER’

Al­though he ad­mit­ted to be­ing sur­prised to find him­self in the top 10, Ben­nett in­sists he’s not a fish out of wa­ter in such com­pany, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to climb­ing moun­tains. “I’ve al­ways been a very good climber, I’ve al­ways had the num­bers,” he said.

“Even as an am­a­teur when I did a 20-minute test, I al­ways had su­per watts per kilo (kg) but strug­gled with do­ing su­per watts per kilo after do­ing 100km or up to 200km.” But a change in train­ing meth­ods has reaped div­i­dends. “I think just do­ing more Grand Tours, do­ing al­ti­tude train­ing, I’ve changed the way I train-I do hard stuff at the end of long six-hour rides now and that builds up.”

Ben­nett’s not hav­ing delu­sions of grandeur, though, de­spite a sev­enth-placed fin­ish at last year’s Vuelta a Es­pana. “Tenth would be prob­a­bly the limit of my abil­i­ties, I’d say. I’m hop­ing for a good time-trial and I’m hop­ing for no mishaps. “I think that’s the key-just don’t do stupid shit and don’t crash and don’t get caught out be­hind splits in the cross­winds. “That’s the goal, but it’s dif­fi­cult.”

Look­ing back to his younger days, Ben­nett ad­mits he got left be­hind when turn­ing pro­fes­sional. “I did start quite late, I was a moun­tain biker for a lit­tle bit and then started late on the road,” he said. “It was weird, when I raced in France (as a ju­nior) we (he and Bardet) would go head-to-head and at the Ronde de l’Isard (a top un­der-23s race) I had the bet­ter of him and things like that.

“Then the next week­end, he would have the bet­ter of me. “But then we would go to the pros and he just blos­somed and I didn’t, and I’m slowly start­ing to find my feet now.

“It was weird, the guys I was with, my gen­er­a­tion, the un­der 23s-a lot of them came to the pros and were sud­denly re­ally good, and I wasn’t. “Even though I was prob­a­bly as good, and on my days even bet­ter than them as an am­a­teur. “Maybe it’s the dis­tance or it was the po­si­tion­ing or the mind­set, I don’t know.” — AFP

EYMET: Rid­ers of the France’s AG2R La Mon­di­ale cy­cling team (from left) France’s Ro­main Bardet, Bel­gium’s Oliver Nae­sen, and Lux­em­burg’s Ben Gas­tauer ride be­hind his team car dur­ing the 203.5km eleventh stage of the 104th edition of the Tour de France cy­cling race yes­ter­day be­tween Eymet and Pau. —AFP

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