George Bennett entered unchartered territory for a New Zealand professional road cyclist this year, but he is even more excited for next year and beyond. The 28-year-old has today confirmed he will compete in the Vantage Windows & Doors Road National Championships in Napier on 4-6 January, and likely take part in both the time trial and road race.
This year Bennett improved his record as the best Grand Tour rider in New Zealand history, finishing 8th at the Giro d’Italia, and was the first to be ranked in the top-50 on the UCI world rankings.
The national championship will prove a shakedown for Bennett, who will be the team leader for his highly rated professional outfit Team Jumbo for the World Tour opener at the Tour Down Under in South Australia next month.
He has signed a further three-year contract for Team Jumbo and has been named as one of their team captains for 2019, joining fellow stars Steven Kruijswijk and Primoz Roglic.
“Team Jumbo have signed the key team captains for three years and then building a really strong team around us with the likes of Tony Martin, a former world champion time trial rider, coming in,” said Bennett.
“It is great to have another three years in a World Tour team locked in and gratifying to be considered a team leader. This is a team that is well organised, with good people who look after you.”
An area of concern is his continuing battle with chronic side-stitch with an operation late last year not solving the issue. It rears up under major efforts in climbs and is often debilitating.
“You have to fight through it if you can but sometimes it is too painful and you have no option but back-off. That’s what happened at the Vuelta this year and I ended up having to drop back and then go into a support role for my teammate. We are still working on a solution.”
Bennett is looking forward to another tilt at the national championship and would love to wear the national jersey in the big races in Europe next year.
“I like to support the national championships. The World Tour riders like myself come with little miles under us and only a couple of weeks back on the bike. It is always fun to catch up with the other riders.
“It’s not really a course for me so I will have to be creative if I want a shot at wearing the jersey.”