With the elite road race championships now just over a week away, Sam Bennett gained an important confidence boost when he won the Paris-Bourges semi-Classic on Thursday.
The Bora-Argon18 rider took a photo finish ahead of Russian rider Alexander Porsev (Team Katusha), with Frenchman Rudy Barbier (Roubaix Métropole Européenne De Lille) third.
Bennett had won the race last year and this marked the first time in his career he has successfully defended a victory.
The Carrick-on-Suir rider had brutal luck during this year's Tour de France, crashing hard on the opening stage and slicing one finger down to the bone. He limped through the race, finishing last overall as a result of his injuries, but continued to work hard to turn his season around.
On September 21st he won stage two of the Giro della Toscana and went on to take the final points classification plus fifth overall.
Wednesday's result gives him a further confidence boost before the worlds, which begins this weekend with the team time-trial events and concludes on Sunday week with the men's Elite road race. This year's event is on a flat circuit in Doha, Qatar, and is tipped to end in a possible sprint finish.
“A week ago I thought my season was over because of illness. I was off the bike for a few days,” Bennett told
The Irish Times
. “And now I am on my way back after winning a race. That’s great for the morale. I still don’t have high expectations for Qatar but will see how Paris-Tours goes this weekend. Maybe the 250 kilometres there will give me a boost in form.”
In other news, this week's announcement of the first signings for the new Team Aqua Blue Sport included three from Ireland, namely Martyn Irvine, Matt Brammeier and Conor Dunne. However the impact of the country's first-ever Pro Continental team is likely to extend beyond the pro scene, with team owner Rick Delaney saying there will also be a mechanism to develop the amateur ranks.
He previously sponsored the Aqua Blue club team in Cork and will continue support.
“What we would like to do is to set up an academy based on our amateur team,” he said. “We are going to allow our team in Cork to tap into our coaching structure. We are going to get them to come on some training camps with us and hopefully expose as much of their potential as we possibly can.
“That will be the plan from the first of January and they know that. We will give them all our expertise and hopefully they will develop.”