Sam Bennett: I'm fighting for my Giro d'Italia spot next year

Bora-Hansgrohe rider wins performance of the year in Irish awards

After a superb run of success at the Giro d'Italia this season, Sam Bennett has set his sights on returning to the Italian Grand Tour in 2019. Bennett added that he would also aim for Milan-San Remo if he was selected for the Corsa Rosa.

Bennett rode his second Giro d’Italia earlier this season, winning three stages including the final sprint in Rome. The victories were Bennett’s first at Grand Tour level and saw him beat compatriot Stephen Roche’s record for Irish wins at the same Giro.

Speaking at the Cycling Ireland awards in Dublin on Saturday he admitted that he faces a battle to make the team’s eight-man line-up in 2019 but believes he has earned a place given his performance in May this year.

“I’m fighting for my Giro spot for next year. There’s pressure with other riders in the team, but I feel I deserve my spot. I’ve been consistent in the race now for two seasons. If that is my plan, I think I can start at San Remo,” Bennett said according to Irish broadcaster RTE.

As well as Bennett in their sprint ranks, Bora-Hansgrohe has Peter Sagan and rising German talent Pascal Ackermann. All three will be with the team next season, while they have also added Jempy Drucker for 2019. Home rider Max Schachmann and Italian Oscar Gatto are also set to move to the team in January.

Bennett was speaking after being given an award for the International Performance of the Year. He was also given a special achievement award for his successes in 2018. Meanwhile, Conor Dunne was voted male rider of the year and Lara Gillespie won female rider of the year.

Bennett took seven victories throughout the season, with his three at the Giro d’Italia followed by Rund um Koln and a string of wins at the Tour of Turkey. He remained consistent throughout the year, which saw him net third in Cyclingnews’ top 10 sprinters of the season.

Though he was born in Belgium, 28-year-old Bennett grew up in Carrick-on-Suir, the hometown of Sean Kelly. Having spent several years with the French squad Velo-Club La Pomme Marseille, Bennett was given a chance as a stagiaire with the FDJ team at the end of 2010. When that came to nought, he joined the An Post-Sean Kelly Continental. After a strong 2013, which saw him win a stage of the Tour of Britain, he stepped up to Professional Continental level with NetApp-Endura and then into the WorldTour when they became Bora-Hansgrohe.

“Winning these awards is an acknowledgement of the results I have been trying to achieve for 10 years,” said Bennett. “I moved away from home when I was 18 years old, and there have been times since then when I didn’t think I could do it.

“To see the support I have had through that from Irish cycling and from everyone in the room is amazing, and for that I’m very grateful."

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