George Bennett’s Santos Tour Down Under didn’t go as he had planned, with a top 10 finish eluding him this year. Afterwards the LottoNL-Jumbo climber shared his disappointment with us, while looking back at his aggressive approach to the race as well.
This year sadly George’s memories of the Santos Tour Down Under will be ones of disappointment, where misfortune at a critical point in the race turned the outcome for him on its head. Before the race, the LottoNL-Jumbo rider was enthusiastic about the prospects of returning to the scene where he achieved his first top ten finish in a World Tour event. After stage 2 we spoke to George and he said, “I’d be happy with a top ten overall, I haven’t put many miles in yet – the team have me saving my bullets for the sprint – but I have managed some really good power training and I think that’s enough to get you some good results over here, it’s all short and sharp so I’ll see how things go.”
But afterwards, having finished 19th overall, Bennett looked back and sighted the Corkscrew climb as one of the moments where his hopes were dashed. “Yeah it was a disappointing race – I had a bad moment before the Corkscrew, had to scramble to get back to the front after the crash and although I started it at the front I was over the limit,” he explained. “In that heat it’s not a place to be. I hardly pushed any watts up the hill. I think from that day I lost the plot a bit and in hindsight if I raced with the legs I had I think a top ten was still possible again but we decided to try for something better in a stage up Willunga – it was a risk that didn’t work out but it was worth a shot.”
Despite the disappointment, what excited us was that we saw again the return to attacking racing that George produced in the Vuelta a Espana last year. George seems to be leaning more towards the longer range, do or die efforts that have had us on the edge of our seats from time to time. George explained what attracts him to this approach. “I think I had a few top tens and they don’t really count for much, they are nice but I’ve had four years pro and not won anything and it’s a monkey on my back – I don’t have the strength yet to go pedal to pedal with someone like Richie [Porte] in the final but there’s always a chance to get lucky if you take the race to them.”
On both the stages up Corkscrew and Old Willunga Hill we saw George at the front, forcing the pace and taking the race to the rest; although in stage 5 he considers his attack a little more of a mistake. “In cases like Willunga it’s not a great idea – I had great numbers that were wasted attacking into a strong headwind 1km to go but that is hindsight- do it enough and one day it will work out or hopefully il get good enough to wait,” he said.
George will now turn his attention to this weekend where he will line up for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race with his team that includes Enrico Battaglin, Martijn Keizer, Bert-Jan Lindeman and Maarten Tjallingii. A host of Kiwi company will be there in the field too including World Tour riders Sam Bewley and Greg Henderson as well as ProContinental ONE Pro Cycling teammates Hayden McCormick, Dion Smith and James Oram.
“After this race the real training starts – 10 days in New Zealand riding long miles – I hit [Tour of] Oman for a tune up and then the first major goal of the year is Paris-Nice,” George said. “I do a huge amount of 1 week stage races all the way ‘til June with a few of the Ardennes classics in there.”
Stay tuned for more from George as this season gets underway, and we wish him all the best success as he heads for his first big goal in Paris-Nice, from the 6th-13th March.