George Bennett has opened up about going through surgery in a bid to finally resolve the side stitch issue that has long been a problem throughout his cycling career. In an interview with Cyclingnews he also looked back on a frustrating 2019 season and ahead to a year built around support once again.
The side stitch issue for George has been a long-lived with and frustrating problem that up until now has had no effective resolution. Many attempts have been made to try and isolate the issue and find a treatment that works, but now there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Bennett has been diagnosed with slipping rib syndrome and underwent surgery three weeks ago to try and finally find a cure.
“I had a big operation a couple of weeks ago and I hope that will help. I’ve had the side stitch for ages and it slowed me down a lot last year,” Bennett explained to Cyclingnews. “Every time I go hard I get this stabbing pain in my side. The surgery is pretty drastic measures but I’ve essentially had three ribs removed. That makes it sound worse than it is but each one was around 8cm long and made up of cartilage.”
Surgery is a major decision for anyone in any profession. For George, the decision to go under the knife was made in conjunction with those closest to him. “We sat down, talked with the family and my girlfriend, and decided that I’m not halfway through my career and that my best years are still ahead of me. I want to be able to make the most of it. If this works it will open up a lot more doors for me. I back off in training not just racing because of this, so we’ll see how this goes.”
It says something about the talent and strength of the 29 year old that 2019 is being looked back on as a difficult or even a disappointing year. He was part of a third place finish for Steven Kruijswijk in the Tour de France and won the team time trial with his Jumbo-Visma outfit. He was part of Slovenian history as Primož Roglič won the Vuelta a Espana, but there’s still a sense that the year could have provided so much more for George.
“I feel like I left this year a bit empty-handed. It wasn’t bad but I’ve been frustrated at times. That might be an exaggeration but at the Tour, for example, I had a really good level and it was great to be part of a team that got third, but there’s still no results chalked up to my name,” George explained.
“It’s the same at the Vuelta. I was sick, crashed a few times but it was still nice to be part of a team that won. That was amazing but I left without having my own breakthrough.”
Depending on how George recovers from his surgery that breakthrough might have to wait as well, with Jumbo-Visma shifting into another gear with the inclusion of Tom Dumoulin in the roster for 2020. “The team will prioritise, as they should with Tom, Primož and Steven, and I don’t see myself as having those opportunities next year,” George said.
“Maybe Tour Down Under I will, but I have to adapt and if I want a chance on this team now I need to target those races where Steve, Primož and Tom aren’t racing. I won’t get a shot at a Grand Tour. I know that. They deserve that, and I’m a fan of the best guys getting the best support.”