Sam Bennett chasing success in Vuelta a España debut
Irish cyclist showed strong form last week when he won three stages in BinckBank Tour
Sam Bennett: he takes additional motivation from the fact that he is wearing the Irish champion’s jersey heading into the Vuelta a España. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Winner already this year of 11 races, Sam Bennett will line out in the Vuelta a España on Saturday gunning for stage victories in the event. The Irish road race champion is making his debut in the three-week race and, having won three stages in last year’s Giro d’Italia, will be aiming to rack up more Grand Tour success.
“In the first week there is meant to be around three opportunities,” he told The Irish Times this week. “And I will have to climb [well] to get them. One is definitely a sprint, but the other two I am not sure. There are hard, medium and easy stages for sprinting.”
Bennett is a stronger climber than most sprinters, and should be still in contention if the bunch gets thinned out by undulating terrain. He showed strong form last week when he won three stages in the BinckBank Tour in Belgium, and while those successes came early on he said his best sensations were on the tough final stage.
That gives him reassurance that his form is where it needs to be heading into the Vuelta. He is motivated by that, and also determined to prove a point after his Bora-hansgrohe team passed him over for selection for the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.
He also takes additional motivation from the fact that he is wearing the Irish champion’s jersey heading into the race.
“I always said that when I would get that jersey I want to represent it as best I can. It has been a long time since a sprinter has had that jersey. I think I have podiumed in every sprint I have done with the Irish jersey since I got it. Well, except for the European championships, but there was a breakaway up the road.
“I feel really proud that I have it, that I am winning for Ireland. When I put my hands up with the jersey it feels really, really nice.”
Bennett will be joined on the Vuelta a España startline by Nicolas Roche. He is competing with Team Sunweb, and will be trying to land what would be the third stage win of his career. He was aggressive during the Tour de France, but things didn’t quite work out, with sixth place on stage nine being his best result.
Meanwhile, Ben Healy is continuing to ride solidly in the Tour de l’Avenir. The Irish World Cycling Centre rider placed 36th on Thursday’s mountainous stage seven to La Giettaz, and moved up six places to 24th overall. Daragh O’Mahony is 112th. Healy had a superb performance on day five, winning the stage.