New Zealand’s Bennett overtakes Majka for ATOC lead
Kiwi George Bennett leapfrogged Rafał Majka with sensational time trial to take 35-second lead with one stage remaining at Amgen Tour of California
If cycling fans Down Under needed a reason to watch the seventh and final stage of the Amgen Tour of California, New Zealand’s George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) has given them one.
Bennett ranked second on GC behind Majka before the time trial and started as penultimate rider. The ITT covered 24 kilometres and the altitude, 2,000 metres, made things harder. Bennett had to finish six seconds ahead on Majka and defend a 38-second lead at Talansky.
“I was riding and I didn’t hear much over the radio, then just about halfway, my director suddenly lit up after he got the intermediate times and just got super excited, yelling in my ear and I knew that something was happening,” said Bennett, who finished seventh on GC in Cali last year, as well as 10th overall at the Vuelta a España three months later.
“My Sports Director Frans Maassen is usually calm and it wasn’t really until a couple of kilometres to go that I really stepped into it. I crossed the line and knew I had a good time. I was third or fourth or something. I was waiting for the clock to tick down and it was a pretty nervous few minutes.”
The 2011 Tour of Wellington winner finished 59 seconds ahead of Majka, but more importantly, he lost only two seconds on Talansky.
“There was a lot of feeling of disbelief at first when I crossed the finish line, but a lot of work had gone into that,” continued Bennett. “It’s not like I got good at time trialling overnight. I trained really hard for it, my coach has put in a huge amount and my team put me through the ringer on positioning and everything like that. I think it’s a huge credit to them that I could even finish in the top 10 in a time trail and take the lead.”
Saturday’s final stage takes riders 125km from the Mountain High start over three categorised climbs and two intermediate sprints to Pasadena to end the race.