George Bennett is set to take his place in a star-studded line up for the Tour of the Alps; Bennett’s final race before the first Grand Tour of the season at the Giro d’Italia. The five-day stage race is all about the mountains, although there is just one official summit finish to tackle on day 2.
It is to the Giro what a race like Criterium du Dauphine might be considered to be to the Tour de France. The Tour of the Alps is the ideal pre-Giro preparation race for the climbers who will be looking to make their mark on the three weeks in Italy that are to come and potentially pull on the maglia rosa. Over the five stages a total of some 15 mountains (some not graded) will be crested and George Bennett will be taking his place in a field littered with strength.
Team Sky will head to the race with Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana champion Chris Froome in their ranks. Froome will be looking to become the reigning Tour-Vuelta-Giro champion next month, and the team around him has the strength of riders such as Kenny Elissonde, David de la Cruz, Sebastian Henao who will doubtless be crucial in the mountains.
Fabio Aru and his UAE-Team Emirates squad will be interesting to watch, with Aru among the riders who will likely benefit from home support. Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot and Dimension Data’s Louis Meintjes will doubtless add some spice to the mountains; while Astana’s Miguel Angel Lopez will look to build on his reputation last season as one of the climbing finds of the season.
Into the fray comes George Bennett, and he will – on paper – be one of the ones to watch in the general classification battle. The team around him look as though they will be quite committed to the Kiwi, with Bennett’s typical co leader – Robert Gesink – not racing the Tour of the Alps.
Instead the team boasts Italian Enrico Battaglin in their line up; a two-time Giro stage winner, whose nine professional victories throughout his career have all come in his home nation. Dutch riders Koen Bouwman and Pascal Eenkhoorn are in the line-up, and so too Americans Sepp Kuss and Neilson Powless; with Belgium’s Gijs Van Hoecke completing the seven-rider team.