George Bennett has revealed that there have been moments where he’s thought of pulling the pin on cycling as a result of the persistent side stitch that has been a career-long problem for him. The LottoNL-Jumbo rider has tried countless procedures to isolate and fix the problem but so far to no avail.
It’s been the best and most consistent year for George Bennett on the bike. He improved his record as New Zealand’s highest placed finisher in a grand tour by taking 8th overall at the Giro d’Italia. 4th in the Tour de Pologne, 5th in the Tour of the Alps, 6th in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and 9th in Tirreno-Adriatico have combined for a very strong 2018 season; along with George’s first top ten finish in a monument classic at Il Lombardia.
Such strong results, though, haven’t been without the nagging and familiar pain of the side stitch that has always flared up when George has been at max effort in training and racing. The issue, which affects him between his diaphragm and his lung, has been on going and at one point had him questioning whether a career in cycling was something to continue with.
Speaking to CyclingNews George said, “Sometimes, you think, ‘What’s the point?’ You can get a bit despondent.”
“It can be depressing. A couple of times I’ve thought about throwing away cycling – a few years ago. That was because we thought that we’d run out of options, but now I think we have a couple of options to try. I think it is something that is fixable. People can fix insane things. I saw yesterday that people were doing spine transplants. I think they can fix a side stitch.”
Although the results of 2018 are among his best ever, and many riders would be happy with the season George has had, the Kiwi climber recognises that in relation to his key goals of the year, most of his season was a story of peaking too soon.
“I’ve kind of noticed that I got it wrong three times now, this year. I wanted to be really good at Catalunya, for example, and by best races were Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico [earlier in the same month], and then I wanted to be good at the Giro, but the Tour of the Alps was my best race [two weeks earlier]. Then, again, the Vuelta was my main objective, and I was pretty good at Poland [two weeks earlier].”
In his first full season in a leadership role, following on from his win in the 2017 Amgen Tour of California, Bennett has had a good year with solid results, but one big win for George would be far more satisfying than the 21 top tens he’s recorded this year.
“Getting a top 10 is nice. It means that you’re competitive and in the race, but I’d trade a lot of them to win a big race. That’s the next step, I guess,” Bennett said.
For of George’s thoughts on the season, next year and co-leadership opportunities with Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk click here.