Kiwi part of winning team on Tour de France stage

Author
Niall Anderson, NZ Herald,
Section
Other Sport,
Publish Date
Monday, 8 July 2019, 12:33PM
George Bennett (second from left) was a key part of Jumbo-Visma's win. Photo / Getty
George Bennett (second from left) was a key part of Jumbo-Visma's win. Photo / Getty

George Bennett has become the fourth New Zealander to be part of a stage win at the Tour de France, with his Jumbo-Visma team storming to a dominant victory in the team time trial this morning.

Team Jumbo-Visma claimed victory by 20 seconds over Team Ineos, with Bennett one of the team's five riders who crossed the line with their arms in the air, having destroyed their competition across the 27.6 kilometre course.

It's the second straight year a Kiwi cyclist has been part of the winning team time trial squad at the Tour de France, after Patrick Bevin won with BMC Racing in 2018. Chris Jenner in 2001 and Julian Dean in 2011 are the other two New Zealanders to have accomplished the feat.

For Bennett, it's the first time he has tasted stage success as a professional, having won the Tour of California in 2017, but doing so without winning a stage. While it's a different proposition from winning an individual stage, the team time trial triumph will be no less sweet, with Bennett cutting an ecstatic figure in the post-stage celebrations.

He had come close before in a team time trial at a Grand Tour – his Cannondale squad finished second, six seconds off the pace at the 2014 Vuelta a Espana – but there was little doubt about the result this morning.

Jumbo-Visma were fastest through the first 13.2km checkpoint – by 11 seconds – extended their lead to 14 seconds by the 20.1km mark, and kept pulling away to crush all comers by 20 seconds.

Bennett, not a time trial specialist, surprised his teammates with his strength to remain with the team's big engines right until the line.

"We had a tactic to do it without George because he's just too small," laughed teammate and overall leader Mike Teunissen.

"But in the end, he felt really good and could help us. The other guys were really strong, really long pulls. All the little kickers were really hard, but everyone kept their pace."

Their dominant display moved Bennett to fifth overall – 10 seconds behind opening stage victor Teunissen – but his role on the team means he's unlikely to stay in the mix alongside the general classification contenders for too long.

Bennett was remarkably used as a domestique on flat terrain on the opening stage – the diminutive climber toiling away on the front of the peloton to keep the breakaway in check – and he is fully committed to helping team leader Steven Kruijswijk, meaning that he will sacrifice his own hopes of a top performance for the benefit of the team.

That approach will feel like it has paid off in incredible fashion after today's success.

 

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