Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) downplayed speculation that he is set to ride in all three Grand Tours in 2011 and stressed that the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España will be his priorities.
“I’ll be focusing on the Giro and the Vuelta,” Bennati told Cyclingnews at the Leopard-Trek team presentation in Luxembourg. “The Giro in particular is my big objective. I’d like to go there and win a couple of stages, and there will be two or three riders in the team at the Giro to help me in the sprints.”
The Italian fast man is also set to ride the Vuelta with an eye to fine-tuning his top-end speed ahead of what looks set to be a sprinters’ course at the Worlds in Copenhagen. Given his own heavy schedule and Leopard-Trek’s ambition of bringing Andy Schleck to Paris in the yellow jersey, however, Bennati acknowledged that it would be a big ask to make the team’s Tour de France roster.
“It would be very difficult to go to the Tour even if I would like to,” Bennati said. “If I went there, it would have to be to ride for the whole three weeks given our team’s aim of winning the Tour. You couldn’t just pull out after the first week.”
Bennati’s early season objective will be a strong showing at Milan-San Remo, and he will also aim to be in the mix at Gent-Wevelgem. He will then miss the remainder of the cobbled Classics in order to focus on his Giro d’Italia preparation.
The Worlds and a new beginning
There is another major one-day race that is very much on Bennati’s radar this season, however: the world championships. He was disappointed to be omitted from Italian coach Paolo Bettini’s line-up last season, although he insists that he had never expected to be brought to Geelong as a protected rider.
“I want to be very precise on this, I never said that I wanted to go to Australia as a leader,” Bennati said. “I wanted to go there and I was willing to be part of the group, and I think I could have done that. But I respect Bettini’s decision, and it’s up to me this season to show again what I can do and to show that I deserve a place on the team.”
While the course in Copenhagen appears well-suited to Bennati’s rapid finish, he also believes that he could contribute to the Italian cause in other ways if required.
“You can ask [Vincenzo] Nibali about how hard I worked at the Vuelta, riding on the front and pulling on the climbs,” Bennati said. “Sure I haven’t won a Classic yet, but I think I can do a job over that kind of distance.”
Bennati is enthusiastic about the challenge of riding in a foreign team for the first time since his 2004 season at Phonak. While he is pleased to have fellow countryman Adriano Baffi on board as a directeur sportif, he acknowledges that it is the quality of his management that counts, rather than his nationality.
“It’s different because I’ve grown up in Italian teams and this is an international one,” Bennati said. “Of course, Baffi brings a lot of experience but I’m happy he’s here because he’s a good directeur sportif, not because he’s Italian.”
Bennati is also having to adjust to life in a team where English is the lingua franca. While his language skills are progressing, he is already looking forward to the chance to do his talking on the road.
“The hardest thing has been learning English. I’m not really a language person, I’d never really studied them,” Bennati said. “But at the end of the day, it’s my job to win races, not speak English.”
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