George Bennett's anger at mistiming his final effort on the climb to Sarnano Sassotetto during stage 4 was only tempered by discovering he had moved up to seventh overall at Tirreno-Adriatico and understanding he now has a real chancing of finishing in the top after Tuesday's final 10km time trial.
The LottoNL-Jumbo rider finished third behind winner Mikel Landa (Movistar) and runner-up Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) after surging across to them in the final 1.5km of the 14.5km climb to the finish. Bennett showed he was arguably the strongest by attacking several times. He was the only rider who made it across to the Landa attack but then paid for his effort and was unable to beat the Spaniard on the slightly downhill swooping curve to the line.
"I felt really good but just cocked it up," Bennett told Cyclingnews as soon as he had crossed the line, admitting his mistakes.
"The worst thing is that I knew the climb; I came to look at it," he revealed. "I don't know why but I had it a little different in my head. If I could do it all again, that last kilometre, I'd go all out to the top of that little pinch. I thought I needed a bit for the finish but once we were over the hill, we were all out to the finish line."
The finale of the stage was hectic, leaving even Bennett confused. When Landa attacked to go across to Aru, Majka and Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy), Froome was dropped. Then when Bennett made his series of attacks, Thomas was slowed by a blocked chain, shaking up the stage and the overall classification. Bennett was racing hard up front and focused on his own performance.
"Team Sky were really running out of power and you could feel that, so there was a danger the front group wouldn't come back. I had one more attack in me and it was a shame it didn't work out for me," he said.
"I was thinking it was going to go away, but I had a plan to stick with the best guys. I felt pretty good and when it was time to go I went, once with Bardet and again when there as a pause, because I felt good."
Back in the GC podium hunt
Bennett finished six seconds ahead of some of his big-name stage race rivals, with Thomas losing 40 seconds and Froome even more. Bennett is now seventh overall, 33 seconds down on new leader Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing). He is only 22 seconds down on a podium place, with Sunday's tough stage to Filottrano and then Tuesday's 10km individual time trial.
Because Bennett was chasing the stage victory, he had no idea what was happening behind him. He did not know he was back in the fight for the GC podium until he talked to a reporter.
"What happened to Thomas?" he said, struggling to comprehend how he was back in the overall classification.
"Oh Shit! Well, that's good, at least for me," he replied when told.
"I came her to work for Roglic and wasn't thinking of the GC. Then when he crashed the team said I could try for GC. Now I just want to have a good time trial. The team has helped me with the time trial stuff. I still want to make some fine tweaks, but they worked so hard. Ten kilometres is not my thing, but it's a good test for prologue."
Bennett has only just arrived back in Europe and plans one final block of altitude training to prepare for the Giro d'Italia.
"I was in New Zealand training and only landed in Europe two days before Strade Bianche. It was a bit of a shock to the system, ripping around Strade Bianche at 5C instead of 25C," he said.
"But I'm happy, the big goal is the Giro. I've got Catalunya next and then an altitude camp. It's nice to have something to stick to before the Giro."
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