George Bennett and LottoNL-Jumbo continue aggressive Vuelta a Espana strategy

LottoNL-Jumbo have been one of the key aggressors in the opening stages of the Vuelta a Espana, and George Bennett says that we can expect more of the same from the Dutch squad in the coming week.

Both Bennett and his teammate Steven Kruijswijk are in contention for not just the podium but the overall race lead, and the New Zealander believes that the best way to ascend the overall classification is to ride aggressively.

"We need to keep racing how we have been with the big guys leading us into all of the key sections, and we need to keep on climbing," Bennett told Cyclingnews in Salamanca at the start of stage 10. "We wanted to be aggressive because we have me and Stevie [Kruijswijk] and we know we are two of the strongest climbers here.

"An aggressive race suits us. It hasn't just been on the two mountaintop finishes, it was also on the day that Gallopin won and I think it suits us. We've been good. It just suits us to try something and why not. In the top 10, if you're eighth or ninth it's nice but we need to be better and that means taking the race to people."

As the race resumed after the first rest day, Bennett showed that he is prepared to continue to take on the race and not just follow by picking up the one available bonus second at the stage 10 intermediate sprint. It is one less second to worry about in the mountains to come and brings his gap to the red jersey down to 47 seconds.

During the first week, Bennett lost ground in the opening time trial but has been consistently with the top climbers since and gradually climbed the rankings as others have fallen by the wayside. However, the week ended on a slightly sour note when he lost touch with a group of attackers, which contained several of the overall race favourites, on the summit finish to La Covatilla. It's one of the few regrets Bennett has from the first nine days of racing.

"I feel pretty good actually. Considering we've done nine days of solid racing. I'm quite happy with how I feel," he said. "The team has been awesome and that has been good for me and the confidence. We're in good spirits, we've avoided drama. We've had heat, crosswinds, mountains, time trials, all sorts of stuff.

"It's the closest I've ever been to the jersey after nine days. There are only two things that haven't gone super well, for me personally. On the last mountain stage, I made the group of favourites and got trailed off in the crosswind at the top and blew up at over 2,000 metres after actually making the group of five guys, so that was a bit annoying but it's only 15-20 seconds and I think with what is coming up it's not going to be too major. The thing is it's still so close."

Bennett gained a small amount of time on Kruijswijk La Covatilla, but the Dutchman is still a few seconds ahead of him in the overall standings – at 43 seconds off the red jersey. It puts in a similar situation to the Tour de France where Kruijswijk and Primoz Roglic came out of the first major mountain test in fifth and sixth places. Rather than try to out-do each other for the team leadership, they were able to utilise the position to put further pressure on their rivals and Bennett is hoping to do the same at the Vuelta.

"He's still looking good, he's as good as he was in the Tour, I think," Bennett said of Kruijswijk. "I like it. It's not that we're rivals, we're definitely teammates and I think that's a cool thing. In the race, you see us and we can 1-2 a little bit more. We don't have the trouble that some teams have with the internal rivalry, which is a hindrance.

"It's been really good and it's going really well. It's something that we'll have to get used to and it's going to be the future of our team with me Primoz and Stevie all being competitive riders."

On Tuesday, the Vuelta resumed racing without too much incident for the overall contenders – aside from a few late punctures. After almost half of the race done, though with the hardest very much still to come, the general classification battle still hangs in the balance and is as wide open as it could conceivably be. Bennett thinks that stage 11 could prove a stumbling block for some GC contenders but expects that the title fight won't really light up until the tryptic of mountain stages at the end of the week.

"There are 15 guys still in contention and that's pretty crazy after nine days," said Bennett, before singling out the most dangerous in that top 15. "Yates, Uran, Lopez, Quintana and Kelderman, they're probably the guys that are really going well.

"I don't think that we'll see anything too major in the next three days. Tomorrow might be a bit dramatic and you can lose time tomorrow but Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be the hardest so far."

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