Will George Bennett receive the support he needs at the UCI World Road Championships? That is the question that is currently on the mind of the Kiwi climber who is all but definite to represent New Zealand at this year’s road race in Austria. The course, which will be 265km in length, will take in 4670m of climbing. It is a sure-fire climber’s course, but will Bennett have to tackle it alone?
It was reported by Stuff that Cycling New Zealand are weighing up the options of whether to send George Bennett to the World Championships on his own this year or not. The championships which will be held from 22nd-30th September will see the elite men’s road race start in Kufstein and head 90.6km to Innsbruck where the riders will then take on 6 laps of a shorter 23.9km course before one final long lap of 31km.
All in all the field will face 9 severe climbs, with the 10.5% climb of Gnadenwald en route to the Innsbruck circuit, then on the circuit itself the climb of Igls which is 7.9km in length and 5.7% in gradient will be tackled seven times before the final climb of Gramartboden, a 2.8km climb at 11.5% gradient. It’s a monstrous course for all concerned and Cycling New Zealand high performance director Martin Barras has indicated that Bennett may be going it alone.
“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 clear cut as previous championships,” Barras said.
That prospect, however, was not greeted with any enthusiasm by Bennett, who is convinced that he will need plenty of support for the road race.
“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 teammates, 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.
At the Rio Olympic Games two New Zealand riders were selected for the road race, George Bennett and track sprinter Zac Williams. Bennett finished 33rd in the road race, 11.49mins behind winner Greg van Avermaet after having had to do much of the race without support; through no fault of Williams.
Bennett has indicated that he could target a top 10 finish in the world championships this year which would be an incredible result. But Bennett is adamant that team support is a must. “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 ned to show some support and send a team and it needs to [be] our strongest team and not with an eye on worrying whether they are going to get around the course or not because that’s irrelevant.”