Ireland’s Sam Bennett resumed racing on Thursday at the Arctic Race of Norway, where he built part of his fame one year ago as he outsprinted local hero Alexander Kristoff to win stage 2 just outside the military camp of Setermoen. More recently he has been known for finishing dead last in the Tour de France after he badly crashed and broke his fingers on stage 1 at Utah Beach.
“What have I done since the Tour de France? I slept mostly”, the Bora-Argon 18 sprinter told Cyclingnews with a big smile in northern Norway. “I had to go to Germany to sort out the fingers. Then I was in Belgium for some crits but it was too much I think. All last week I was trying to recover. I don’t know if I’m recovered from the Tour.
“I really enjoyed winning stage 2 of the Arctic Race of Norway last year but it’s going to be difficult to repeat this”, he continued. “Last year I didn’t finish the Tour. When I saw the names of the sprinters on the start list this year, I thought it’s going to be a lot harder to get a stage win but if I’m in the right place at the right time and if I get lucky, it can happen. Sometimes… it’s unfortunate for climbers to say that but being a sprinter, you can be the slowest or the weakest and you can still win.”
Bennett finished the Tour with a top 10 on the Champs-Elysées (9th) despite being in pain for three weeks, bringing back memories of Michael Matthews’ don’t-give-up attitude one year ago. The Australian said he had to win his fight against the Tour de France one year after being unable to start in Leeds due to a crash at training prior to the Grand Départ, and he returned with a stage victory this year in Revel (stage 10).
But Bennett’s state of mind is different as superstar Peter Sagan will join the team he’s still contracted with for next year.
“I don’t know, it’ll be a change," said the Irishman of the renamed Bora-Hansgrohe team, which is set to enter the WorldTour. “It does look like Sagan and I will have a different race program. I let them do their taking. I’m not a lead-out man, so I have no place there [at the Tour de France] then, but hopefully I’ll get a nice race program.
“[For the remainder of 2016], I have a lot of one-day [races] in Belgium”, said the 26-year-old, who was born in Flanders, precisely in Verwijk where his dad was a professional football player. “I’ll keep going until the World’s, it’s a long season with a lot of opportunities left. I’d like to be in good condition in Qatar, but again, it’s the World Championships so everyone will be good there - it’s going to be difficult. It’ll be a sprint anyway, so I’ll just go there and see what happens.”
Before he built part of his fame at the Arctic Race of Norway, the popular “Sammy B” caught the attention of many observers on the Doha Corniche when he outsprinted none other than Sagan, Kristoff, Andrea Guardini, Nacer Bouhanni, Tom Boonen, Arnaud Démare and Greg van Avermaet at the end of stage 6 in the 2015 Tour of Qatar.