Taking stock: Pro cycling’s rising sprint star Sam Bennett

Posted on: December 27th, 2017

Sam Bennett cycling

Sam Bennett made huge strides in 2017, despite illness and a bout of exhaustion doing their best to derail him. We look ahead and assess his chances in 2018. Can he win really big in the year ahead?

 

Pro cycling rising sprint star Sam Bennett

 

One of the most ambitious riders in cycling, Sam Bennett had a season of two halves in 2017.

As 2018 approaches Bennett looks to be on the cusp of a massive breakthrough.

He is a rider who has made progress in his career every season since moving into the paid pro ranks with NettApp-Endura in 2014.

And given his performances this year; if the next 12 months in Sam Bennett’s career is marked by a further step forward, then he should go mainstream in 2018.

Bennett already enjoys a very high profile and the respect of those in the cycling community at home and abroad.

And though he hails from Sean Kelly country, he has stepped out of the shadow of his mentor and become a big star in his own right back home.

He is just a Grand Tour stage win or a classics victory away from that ‘star’ status extending into the wider Irish public.

Already sections of the Irish media realise he is a genuine world class rider.

He was given star billing by the biggest media outlets in the country at times this year.

 

So what might 2018 hold for him?

His Bora-hansgrohe team is still smarting from the unfair disqualification of Peter Sagan from the Tour de France this year.

It will return there in July backing the world champion for stage wins, the green jersey and maybe even a stint in yellow if it comes.

Last year Bennett focussed on the Giro instead of the Tour. There, a bout of illness derailed his first week.

Unfortunately for him that opening week presented several opportunities for sprinters.

 

Sam Bennett cycling

Sam Bennett cycling

Sam Bennett cycling

 

He battled hard and got through the Giro; recovering to contest the sprints again.

Bennett emerged from the race with one 2nd place and three 3rd places to his name. He was also 3rd in the points classification.

It is a mark of just how far Sam Bennett (27) has risen through the world order of sprinting that the lack of a victory looms over his Giro ride in May.

He had raised expectations himself with a sprint victory a month earlier in Paris-Nice. His triumph on stage 3 saw him beat sprinting royalty by a very significant margin.

That Paris-Nice win will be seen as the moment he arrived into the big time when people reflect on his career in years to come.

Fast forwarding to June; Bennett was exhausted after his illness-hit Giro.

It was his third Grand Tour and the first he was truly competitive in. He said the effort took a lot out of him.

Still, he went to the Tour of Slovenia and the Czech Cycling Tour and took more wins.

In Slovenia in June he’d take two stages and the points classification.

He then went to the RideLondon Surrey Classic and claimed 8th. However, he was in a race-winning position and had no real kick in the sprint when he reached for it.

And in August he would take 11th in the road race at the European Championships.

Later in the same month he was back to winning ways. In the Czech Republic he claimed two more stage victories and the points jersey.

However, he would later say that he was exhausted during this section of the season.

And after a number of poor results in early September he decided to take time away from racing.

He went back to Carrick-on-Suir from his base in Monaco and rested up, while continuing to train.

That involved missing the World Championships in Bergen. But it was a move that worked wonders.

When he returned to racing he rode seven races, winning five.

He took victory in the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro in Germany in early October. That was followed by four stage wins at the Tour of Turkey.

And in Turkey he was about to take his fifth win, in the six-stage race, when he crashed in the sprint on the final stage.

It was a whirlwind end to a season that brought very significant success, despite some difficult weeks.

It is a mark of Bennett’s standing now that when weakened by illness he could recover at a Grand Tour to take four podium places.

He could also claim four stage wins and two points classifications as exhaustion had hit him in the summer.

And when he rested up and came back he proved unbeatable.

The cycling world’s eyes will be on the Irishman from the start of the 2018 campaign.

Paris-Nice, and perhaps Milan-Sanremo, will likely hold opportunities for him early in the season.

But if he were to go into the Giro in May with the form he had this year, but this time avoid crashes and illness; this really could be the year of Sam Bennett.

Winning big at the Giro would give him a huge boost. The benefit of such a performance could not be overestimated.

One only has to look to October to see just how potent an in-form and confident Sam Bennett can be.

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