George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) believes his comment that Chris Froome (Team Sky) 'did a Landis’ as he won stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia with a long solo attack has been taken out of context, with the Kiwi rider insisting he is not batting for people on social media who are keen to believe and promote conspiracy theories about Froome’s performance.
Bennett spoke to a LottoNL-Jumbo video crew and Cyclingnews immediately after descending from the finish of stage 19 to the team bus parking in Bardonecchia. He finished more than eight minutes down on Froome, but such was the damage caused by the stage over the Colle delle Finestre that he moved up to ninth overall. He finished 14th on stage 20 to Cervinia and so climbed up to eighth after Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) cracked and lost 45 minutes.
Bennett didn't immediately know the result of stage 19 on Friday and struggled to believe that Froome had managed to gain enough time to take the pink jersey.
"Did Froome stay away? No way!” Bennett said in astonishment on the video shot by his team.
“He did a Landis. Jesus!”
His LottoNL-Jumbo team put that part of a three-minute interview about his stage on Twitter, causing a social media storm as some struggled to believe Froome’s performance.
A few hours later, the Dutch WorldTour team added a disclaimer tweet.
"Disclaimer to avoid any misinterpretation: this is not an insinuation, but a way to express the admiration for an exceptional achievement. Congratulations to Chris Froome and Team Sky,” the team wrote on their Twitter feed.
Twitter went wild over the video clip, but Bennett was keen to put the record straight before the start of stage 20 and explained exactly what he meant when he spoke about Froome.
“If we can’t compare a cyclist to another cyclist, we can’t make a comparison to any cyclist in the last 20 years,” Bennett argued just before the stage start.
“I didn’t say that Froomey went out and railed a load of gear and came back and won the stage. I’m just saying he made a bigger comeback than Easter Sunday. There’s no innuendo. I’m not [implying] anything. But if we can’t make comparisons in cycling, if we can’t compare it to Pantani, we can’t compare it to Merckx then, because we don’t know what was going on there.
“It’s nothing to do with drugs or anything like that. But it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. People on Twitter want it to mean what they want it to mean. They think I’m in there batting for them, but I’m just raising a point.”