• George Bennett at the 2019 Tour Down Under (Getty)Source: Getty
Kiwi climber George Bennett will push for team leadership at the Vuelta a España this year as he works toward shaping into a general Grand Tour contender.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
18 Jan 2019 - 12:55 PM  UPDATED 18 Jan 2019 - 1:05 PM

Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) finished top 10 at his national road and time trial titles earlier this month and has eased into racing at the Tour Down Under this week following a decent winter (or summer, for him) break.

“It was a real good off-season. I’m still trying to snap out of it now. I had six weeks off the bike, went on a trip with the missus around New Zealand in a van, played a lot of cricket, all of that kind of stuff,” he said.

It was an earned respite following a 2018 season in which Bennett made strides toward his overarching goal, notably with an eighth-place finish at the Giro d’Italia. The 28-year-old rounded out the year with 35th at Vuelta a España and then 10th at Lombardia.

“Last year was hectic with two grandies and all the time at altitude,” he said. “I was a bit cooked by the end of it. It was a good offie but in December I was on and off. I felt shithouse a couple of times, had to take a week off and start training again. Then I just did one really big week of training. Hopefully it’s enough. If it’s not, it’s not.”

Bennett isn’t under pressure to perform at the Tour Down Under. He is set to lead Jumbo-Visma at Paris-Nice later this year and swap the Giro d’Italia for the Tour de France, working for Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk. Roglic and Kruijswijk finished fourth and fifth, respectively, at the Tour last year.

“I’m helping on that one, and then hopefully I’ll give the Vuelta a crack,” said Bennett.

“I have leadership at all the other ones [races] so a lot of chances. The Tour is the only one I’m on bottle duty and you have to be alright with that. Those guys were better last year, you can’t really complain that someone is better than you. I’ve just got to show I am as good in the Vuelta.”

For now, there is the WorldTour opener in Adelaide, South Australia that has been touted as a climber’s race this year, and one in which the peloton enters from zero. Jumbo-Visma also has sprinter Danny van Poppel here for the flatter stages.

“I do have ambitions, but I don’t know if there is any ground to have ambition. I don’t know if it’s well-founded, or I’m just being helpful. We’ll find out! Stage four we’ll know already. We’ll see,” Bennett said.

Watch the Kiwi in action at Paris-Nice, the Tour de France and the Vuelta with SBS. Details TBC. 

Scotson relaxed despite season's bumpy start
Miles Scotson's roadnats hopes were dashed by a crash, but seems fairly relaxed about the season ahead with new team Groupama-FDJ.
Whelan the protagonist: neo-pro impresses at Tour Down Under
James Whelan (EF Education First) has impressed so far in his first ride in a WorldTour race, backing up a day in the Stage 3 breakaway with a blistering ride in support of teammate Alberto Bettiol and rallying after the peloton caught him.
Bike throw seals TDU third stage for Sagan
A cool and collected Peter Sagan won Stage 3 of the Santos Tour Down Under on Thursday that fell short of the frenzied fireworks some had forecast in the lead-up.