The Press

‘Crazy cold sweats’ finish Bennett


Coughing and splutterin­g, George Bennett is already plotting his gameplan for the Tour of Spain after illness forced an unwanted early exit from the Tour de France.

The 27-year-old was unable to shake off the virus that struck him prior to Tuesday’s rest day, as he eventually pulled the pin midway through stage 16.

‘‘I thought I could get through. I knew it was a pretty bad fever and I started getting crazy cold sweats and muscle aches and I knew I was in a lot of trouble but I thought me at my worst could be as good as the last sprinters. But that’s the level of the Tour de France, everybody is really, really good,’’ the LottoNL-Jumbo rider said.

Bennett said he lined up with ‘‘every intention’’ of finishing the stage. However, it became pretty clear that it wasn’t going to happen.

‘‘It’s not the first time I’ve had to pull out of a bike race and it won’t be the last but this time I just felt like I had a lot to lose.’’

Bennett finished 10th at the Vuelta a Espana last year, writing his name into history as the first Kiwi to achieve a top-10 finish in one of the three Grand Tours.

And although devastated not to replicate that feat at the Tour de France - Bennett withdrew in 12th place - he was quick to turn his attention to the next major event on the World Tour calendar, already thinking of fighting for the top-10 or even five.

‘‘It was supposed to be an afterthoug­ht, the Vuelta. But mentally now it’s a big goal, but I don’t know how it’s going to work out physically.

‘‘When you have put all your eggs in one basket since May, it’s hard to keep it rolling through August.

‘‘But I’ve already been speaking to the directors and making a bit of a plan for that. It looks like we’ll have a really strong team.

‘‘Steven Kruijswijk is going, and he’ll be one captain, but I think I should be wrangle myself a co-captain role at least.’’

Less than 24 hours after withdrawin­g from the Tour, Bennett had already said goodbye to his team-mates and was en route to his base in Girona, Spain.

‘‘You just gotta get the hell out of here. The last place you want to be is a bike race if you’re not doing it,’’ he said.

‘‘But one thing that helps ease the pain in a weird way is that I feel really bad health-wise and the thought of doing anything other than laying in bed isn’t that appealing so as much as I’d like to be there healthy the thought of me dragging myself in my current state is not really a goer.’’

Bennett said he doesn’t plan to watch the remainder of the Tour, unless team-mate Primoz Roglic gets in a breakaway.

He said he plans to spend some time with his girlfriend and will purposely ‘‘lose form’’ in order to hit the Vuelta, which begins on August 19, fresh.

‘‘It’s definitely not going to be a case of running out of steam mentally, it’s just making sure my body can cope.’’

As for his efforts this month, Bennett said he learned a lot in his second year at the grandest race of them all, and he’s pretty excited to return for a third shot in 2018.

‘‘I’ll save that for a day I’m feeling healthy.’’

 ?? PHOTO: REUTERS ?? George Bennett, right, has been forced out of the Tour de France with illness.
PHOTO: REUTERS George Bennett, right, has been forced out of the Tour de France with illness.

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