The Giro has now moved into its third week, and it’s fair to say there’ve been some spectacular scenes. Not to mention the incredible amphitheater of Monte Zoncolan. The tifosi lining the mountain lit flares as they waited for riders to come through. After the relentless racing, most riders must have been longing for the rest day, during which we caught up with George Bennett via WhatsApp.
How’s the last week gone?
Frustrating. Obviously Saturday (stage 14) was a big f*** up and then yesterday (stage 15) I tried to make up for it. I saw a few guys drop and then just put the hammer down at the bottom of that final climb. Then the group came over me and I had to wait for the second group and ended up losing time. Yeah, so anyway.
What’s up with that incident at the bottom of Monte Zoncolan?
The bike went into crash mode on my Shimano Di2. I had a 34-tooth chainring on and I hit a rough patch of road and automatically the gears switched off as the bike thought it had a crash. (After a serious knock to the derailleur, be it a crash or hit, the derailleur defaults back to its hardest gear – i.e. the 11t.) I’ve had it previously and you can get around it, but you have to override the system; you need to pedal and the bike goes down to the 11t before it comes back up. There’s no way you can do that on the Zoncolan as it’s bloody 15% (gradient.)
Did you get a replacement bike?
At that point there were no team cars. (The road was so tight that vehicles weren’t allowed up the climb, so the organizers had motorbikes to accompany riders up the climb carrying a spare bike.) So, I waited for Robert (Gesink) and we both tried to fix it. By the time the spare bike showed up we had fixed it. We smacked the derailleur and I rode the climb solo. (It should be noted when George checked his power profile he would have been the fifth fastest up the climb, all things being equal.) I had a good ride up, but it bloody pissed me off.
Did you recon the climb before?
Nah, it was that steep and there was enough TV coverage to see what it was like.
What are your reflections on the last week?
I feel really good and upbeat. Last rest day I felt sick and had a real bad head cold. Over the last few days I’ve managed to kick it.
What are the are most critical stages?
I don’t think it’s the ITT; I think 19 and 20 are the most critical stages. Some guys could lose five minutes or something. Yesterday (stage 15) was super hard, it was crazy. I had normalized power of 500 watts. It doesn’t get much harder than that. It was on.
(George takes delivery of a new skinsuit whilst we are on the blower.) This is a new type of skinsuit said to be the fastest in the business. Normally we use the skinsuit once and then just biff it. But these ones get faster the more you wash them, so the soigneur has washed it like, 20 times.
What’s the goal moving forward?
I’m starting to form a goal now. I’m eighth now [going into stage 16] and the best I could get would be fifth in the GC.
That would be an amazing result.
Yeah, but I have higher goals than that. I mean, I’m sitting in a luxury position right now to say that, but I’ve got bigger goals.
You’d rather be sitting in a podium place?
Yes, for sure. But I’ve learnt a ton. It’s interesting to me where I’ve lost time. I mean there’s stuff that I don’t even train [for]. I’ve lost time to (Simon) Yates in sprints, and I never train for that – I train for long mountains. Going away, I’ve got to focus on how I’m going to prepare for punchy, explosive stuff that Yates is doing, like those attacks. So, perhaps the Ardennes or something like that. I’ve looked at his power profile and it’s the ten-minute power that’s so high. I don’t know the actual number, but it’s like, 6.8 watts per kilo. It’s furious and it’s not like a regular training ride; the long climbs, I can perform on and I’ve shown that I’m within ten seconds of the winner. The Tour has big long climbs, such as the Alpine/Pyrenees stages, and it probably suits me more. But the Giro is better – with these shorter punchy climbs.
We’ll catch up with George again at the end of the Giro d’Italia. Until then, kia kaha George!
Words & Images: Liam Friary & Brakethrough Media
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