Another race, another step forward. LottoNL-Jumbo's George Bennett fought off a minor illness in the Volta a Catalunya to take sixth overall, and continue building his form for the Giro d'Italia in May.
Eleventh in the Santos Tour Down Under, ninth in Tirreno-Adriatico and sixth in the Volta a Catalunya, Bennett's WorldTour stage racing results this season have shown a slow yet steady upward curve. But it's at the Giro d'Italia and, probably the Vuelta a España, where Bennett will be hoping to shine the brightest. It will be Bennett's first Giro since failing to finish the 2015 edition. He has ridden the Tour of California in 2016 and 2017, winning overall last May.
The adaption from a much warmer summer at home in New Zealand, on the far side of the globe, to one of Europe's coldest springs in recent years has not been at all straightforward, Bennett says, but overall he has adapted well.
"It's been a really tough race in Catalunya with the weather, and I've had a bit of a cough and stuff and not been feeling great, but I'm getting there," Bennett told Cyclingnews.
"Coming out of New Zealand summer, where it was 25 degrees, back to this was very hard. I flew here and then two days later I was doing Strade and two days later Tirreno-Adriatico, which was a really heavy week with the rain. But everything's on the road for the Giro d'Italia, I guess."
After Tirreno, snow, rain, gale-force winds and very low temperatures in the Pyrenees blasted this year's Volta a Catalunya, causing changes to two stages and the cancellation of one major summit finish.
On balance, Bennett says his sixth place overall at the Volta a Catalunya was "about par with last year when I think I was eighth or ninth overall." (Bennett finished ninth -ed).
"I was up there in the toughest stage of Tirreno, I had hoped to stay with the leaders at La Molina" - stage 3's summit finish in the Volta a Catalunya - "but I went too early and didn't play it well.
"It's not bad, I'm not unhappy about that or anything even if you always want better results."
On Monday, Bennett will head to Andorra for altitude training before continuing his training at the Sierra Nevada prior to racing the Tour of the Alps in April. Then it's onto Israel for the start of the Giro d'Italia.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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