Ben­nett is­sues plea for sup­port at road race

Marlborough Express - - SPORT - PHILLIP ROLLO

Ge­orge Ben­nett is urg­ing Cy­cling New Zealand to pro­vide him with full sup­port for this year’s Road World Cham­pi­onships, amid fears he could be sent to Aus­tria as a lone wolf.

Along with the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Es­pana, the Lot­toNLJumbo star has out­lined Septem­ber’s road race as one of his three ma­jor tar­gets for 2018 - hop­ing to be­come the first Kiwi since Ju­lian Dean in 2005 to achieve a top-10 fin­ish.

The course in Aus­tria has been de­scribed as the hardest ever at a world cham­pi­onships as it is 265km long and fea­tures 4670m of el­e­va­tion - which should play into Ben­nett’s hands, as a climber is tipped to win race.

But be­cause the course is un­likely to suit any of the coun­try’s other lead­ing World Tour pro­fes­sion­als, Cy­cling New Zealand is weigh­ing up whether to send Ben­nett on his own.

‘‘There’s a very real pos­si­bil­ity that it could be lim­ited or he could be the only rider se­lected. But at that par­tic­u­lar point he would have to agree to the se­lec­tion and agree to be se­lected to ride on his own. It’s not nearly as clearcut as pre­vi­ous cham­pi­onships,’’ said CNZ high per­for­mance di­rec­tor Mar­tin Bar­ras.

How­ever, Ben­nett is un­happy that it is even up for dis­cus­sion, ad­mit­ting that his chances of achiev­ing a top-10 fin­ish would be sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced if he does not have the sup­port of team-mates around him.

‘‘I re­ally hope that’s not the case be­cause if that’s the at­ti­tude these guys don’t re­ally un­der­stand the role of do­mes­tiques in cy­cling. I need team-mates, it doesn’t mat­ter if they fin­ish or not. You need guys who can do the first 150km and keep me out of trou­ble, oth­er­wise we have the same sit­u­a­tion as Rio where you just can’t do any­thing,’’ Ben­nett said.

‘‘If they ac­tu­ally be­lieve in me slightly then they need to sup­port me. It’s all well and good to jump on the band­wagon when I do well but they need to show some sup­port and send a team and it needs to our strong­est team.

‘‘At the end of the day it’s just the re­sult of the best rider and these guys will go there to help. It’s the same on a dif­fer­ent course where I’d go to help if it suited their strengths bet­ter.’’

Ben­nett will get a chance to test the course when he heads to Aus­tria for the Tour of the Alps in April and again dur­ing an al­ti­tude camp in July.

‘‘It’s not one of those 50/50 cour­ses where you don’t know if it’ll be a group of 30 sprint­ers. This will be a small group ba­si­cally just the best clim­bers left with the best of who­ever can sur­vive 4500m of climb­ing over 260km,’’ he said.

‘‘But the thing is, the worlds is a one-day race, you get one chance and any­thing can hap­pen. It’s just such a hard race to ex­e­cute well and to peak for be­cause you can be in the best shape of your life but it’s so volatile.

‘‘If I snuck into the top-10 on a course like that it’d be a pretty amaz­ing re­sult. You can dream as big as you like but I find it’s bet­ter to have re­al­is­tic dreams and a top10 or near it would be a su­per re­sult.’’

Ben­nett left for Europe yes­ter­day, af­ter spend­ing the past two months at home in Nel­son. His first race will be on the gravel at Strade Bianche this week­end.


Ge­orge Ben­nett: ‘‘If they [Cy­cling New Zealand] ac­tu­ally be­lieve in me slightly then they need to sup­port me.’’

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