5 talking points from Sam Bennett not securing Giro selection

Posted on: December 13th, 2018

Irish sprinter Sam Bennett winning a stage of Paris-Nice last year, his first ever WorldTour victory.


Sam Bennett is disappointed at being told he is not in his team’s plans for Giro 2019 despite winning three stages in that race his year. But what should we take from his Giro omission?


1 Bennett’s Giro disappointment is mark of his success

When one looks down the names on the Bora-hansgrohe roster there is little doubt this is a very successful team.

And that success is not all down to Peter Sagan. Sam Bennett has delivered many victories for the WorldTour outfit.

His three Giro stage wins this year came during a season in which he won eight races. In total, Bennett has taken 30 wins since turning pro with the team – as NetApp-Endura – in 2014.

And now Pascal Ackermann is starting to hit his stride, winning nine races this year including the German title, and getting the sprinter’s place at next year’s Giro.

Bora-hansgrohe has also signed Maximilian Schachmann on a two-year contract from QuickStep. This year he won stages in the Giro, Volta a Catalunya and Deutschland Tour.

With so much talent, especially sprinting talent, it is impossible for the team to keep everyone happy.

Bennett is now going into the last year of his contract and the other sprinters all have multiple years remaining with the team.

Against that backdrop, the harsh reality is that Bennett being overlooked for Giro 2019, despite his three victories there this year, is typical of the way cycling teams operate at this level.

It’s a sentiment-free zone, with Bennett unfortunately on the wrong end of the clinical decision-making this time.

Ultimately, the need for these tough decisions in teams only arises when a squad is very successful; with several riders all earning the right to have their Grand Tour shot.

And Bennett’s own success and his ambition is the reason why he is so disappointed at being omitted from the Giro; it’s a reminder of just how far he has come in a few short years.


2 The German connection

Sagan aside, the other sprinters on the team are set to remain with Bora-hansgrohe for much longer than Sam Bennett. And they are German.

It will come as a surprise to precisely nobody that in a German team with German sponsors the riders from Germany will come out the right side of what are difficult team selection decisions.

Everyone in Irish cycling and the general sporting public was delighted to see Sam Bennett take so many wins this year, especially at a Grand Tour.

But the reality is that if German national champion Pascal Ackermann gets even one win at the Giro next season it will get more publicity in the German media for the German sponsors than Bennett would in that country for multiple Giro wins.

And that’s what Sam Bennett is now battling against. The team has made no secret of its desire to sign German riders and see them win.

“We want to be successful in the future, but not only with Peter, also with our German-speaking talents,” team manager Ralph Denk said in September.

He made those comments after signing Schachmann in September, to make a trio of strong young Germans in the squad.

And since then Ackermann and Emanuel Buchmann have both signed contract extensions that will keep them at the team until at least 2021.

The team is preparing for life after Sagan and it is determined that as much of its future success as possible will come from home-grown talent; a very common theme in pro cycling.


3 Relations between Bennett and team are still good

One really interesting thing Sam Bennett said about not being in Bora-hansgrohe’s plans for Giro 2019 was that the team wanted him to stay on.

His contract expires at the end of next year and the accepted wisdom is that he will move to a set-up where a proven Grand Tour stage winner like him gets to pick most, if not all, of the races he wants to ride.

However, Bennett’s current employer clearly continues to have faith in him and wants him to stay on beyond this year.

That bodes well for the season ahead when Sam Bennett is much more likely to perform well, and be selected for major races, if relations between himself and his team are good.

While expressing his disappointment about the Giro, Bennett was also measured and respectful at the same time this week. That’s absolutely crucial for his future; both 2019 and beyond.

It is very likely he will move team for 2020. And when any rider is going into the transfer market, they need to do it on the back of a good season.

A good year next year will be important for his earning potential and his place in the pecking order in the next team he goes to – where he will spend his peak years.

If relations remain so good with Bora-hansgrohe that the team continues to try to persuade him to extend his contract, Bennett should continue to get into big races and get lead-outs in them.

That means he should score more big wins, an ideal scenario for him as he tries to secure the best terms – salary and lead-out men – he can with any new team.


4 Huge opportunities still ahead in 2019

The Giro aside, the world is still Bennett’s oyster as he faces into next season. In the early portion of the campaign he rides Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina and Paris-Nice.

They are both races he can win stages in. And if he were to get a couple of early wins next year, it would be almost inevitable he would continue in that vein.

Clearly, he is disappointed about being omitted from the Giro. But he can still win 10 races or more next year.

And he may also ride the Vuelta, meaning he may yet get more Grand Tour stage wins next season.

There is no reason why he couldn’t go and have his best season ever. He may also feel he has a point to prove, which can very often spur on top riders and bring out the best in them.

A couple of early victories, especially straight out of the blocks in Argentina, could really make his season.

And if, as anticipated, he rides neither Giro nor Tour de France, there will be times next year when he is fresher in races than many of the other sprinters, especially at the Vuelta.


5 Bora-hansgrohe has been an ideal team for him

There is no doubt the arrival of Peter Sagan into the team changed the whole dynamic. The three-time world champion is one of the most dominant riders of the modern era.

And in any team he would be the centre of attention on and off the bike. But Bennett has still done very well out of Bora-hansgrohe.

It took him on as a pro after his 2013 Tour of Britain stage win. And as a ProContinental team at the time it didn’t try to bite off more than it could chew.

Bennett has progressed into bigger races with the team at a rate that has really suited him. And the squad has obviously moved up to the top tier during his time there.

He has developed into one of the best sprinters in the world capable of multiple victories in Grand Tours.

And while much of it is down to his talent and work ethic, Bora-hansgrohe has provided him with a perfect environment to develop.

He has arguably outgrown the team, especially with others now pressing for leadership roles as well as Sagan.

But he has still had a fantastic innings so far. And not securing a place at the Giro doesn’t change that.