Bennett issues plea for support at road race
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.’’