Sam Bennett bounced back from recent illness to win the Towards Zero Race Melbourne criterium in Australia on Thursday, sprinting strongly to overtake rivals such as Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) inside the final 100 metres.
Bennett hit the line ahead of Elia Viviani (QuickStep Floors), Steele von Hoff (Kordamentha Real Estate - Australia), Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb), Ewan and the rest of the bunch, thus repeating his success in the race of last year.
It is his first win of the season and boosts his morale after illness led to a subdued showing in the recent Santos Tour Down Under.
“It was fantastic to be on the top step again today,” he said. “It’s difficult to remain confident when the legs aren’t there, as was the case during Tour Down Under. The guys rode amazingly for me and it just seems to be the race where I can come from behind and take the win in the closing metres.”
Bennett headed into the race very uncertain how things would go. On Wednesday he went on a warmup ride with his team but felt so bad he had to turn back and ride home early. “I did one effort and couldn’t continue. The directeur sportif was out with us, the mechanic was on the bike . . . and I couldn’t stay with them. I just felt awful.”
He and his Bora-hansgrohe team are trying to work out why he has such off days, something which he experienced last season too. However he’s hoping to have good legs again on Sunday when he lines out in the bigger Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
“I’d absolutely love to win that race. It would be great for the morale,” he said. “I’d be already able to call the season a success if I did that.”
Bennett's victory is the second international win this week by an Irish rider. On Wednesday Ryan Mullen won the time trial stage at the Vuelta a San Juan, beating the Italian Filippo Ganna (UAE Team Emirates) by 25 seconds, and both Rafal Majka (Bora-hansgrohe) and Greg Daniel (Trek-Segafredo) by 30.
At home, a youth and under 23 women's training camp will be held at the Avon Ri Adventure Centre in Co Wicklow between Thursday February 15th and Saturday February 17th. Paralympic & Para-World Champion Eve McCrystal will be present.
For more details see womenscycling.ie.