Bennati takes first victory of season at Circuit de la Sarthe

Relief for Italian as he builds for Giro d'Italia

Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) was relieved to have earned his first victory of the season in stage 1 of the Circuit de la Sarthe, eight days after his big disappointment at Gent-Wevelgem.

"Second at Gent-Wevelgem is an important result but it was a big disappointment," Bennati told Cyclingnews in Saint-Mars-la-Jaille.

"Tom Boonen wasn't stronger than me that day but I lost his wheel when Ian Stannard changed his lane. It's a pity because I could have won.

"Milan-San Remo and Gent-Wevelgem were my two goals of the early part of the season," the 30-year-old Tuscan said. "But Milan-San Remo was too hard a race for a sprinter to win." Bennati finished 13th in Milan-San Remo, 27 seconds behind race winner Matt Goss.

Gent-Wevelgem was the fifth of his second place finishes this year after being beaten by Heinrich Haussler and Mark Renshaw at the Tour of Qatar and Matt Goss and Theo Bos at the Tour of Oman. "For someone who is used to winning, losing sprints is stressful," Bennati said. "Winning became almost an obsession for me recently. But winning at any cost isn't a good thing. A sprinter also needs to be serene for winning. I hope today's victory is only the first one of a long list."

Bennati might collect more victories in the four-day Circuit de la Sarthe. As the flat time trial in Angers is only 6.8km long, he's likely to keep the lead due to the time bonuses earned in the opening stage, just as his directeur sportif from Leopard-Trek Adriano Baffi did in 1996 at the same event under the colours of Mapei.

"Since December, I had the Circuit de la Sarthe on my race calendar," Bennati said. "We decided to skip the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix to not compromise my preparation for the Giro d'Italia, which is my biggest goal of the year. Circuit de la Sarthe and Tour de Romandie are my lead-up races to the Giro. I'll do the Giro and Vuelta but not the Tour de France this year."

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