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George Bennett defends breakaway strategy in Giro d'Italia after Brambilla incident

George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) attacks his breakaway companions on the final climb of stage 12 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia
George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) attacks his breakaway companions on the final climb of stage 12 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) has defended his tactics in the stage 12 Giro d'Italia breakaway, in which he finally placed third following the commissaires decision to relegate Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo).

Bennett and Brambilla were chasing stage winner Andrea Vendrame (AG2R Citroën) and Chris Hamilton (Team DSM) after they were left behind with 2.8 kilometres to go.

But Brambilla subsequently refused to lead the chase, and following an exchange of words on the run-in, the Italian cut Bennett off in the sprint for third, with the New Zealander raising an arm in protest.

Later, Bennett gave his version of events, explaining that as a climber, it was not up to him to chase down attacks.

Bennett is currently on the hunt for stage wins after a tough first week in which he lost 90 seconds on the other favourites on the first mountain stage finish to Sestola, a further seven minutes on the stage to San Giacomo and another 10:50 on the gravel stage 11 to Montalcino. He is currently 23rd overall, more than 11 minutes down on race leader Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers).

"Today was an opportunity and we gambled for the win. But I'm not here to close everything down and just end up third or fourth in the sprint," Bennett told reporters later.

"The big disappointments of last week took a few days to get over. So now I just want to try and enjoy the race and get something out of it."

Of Bennett's three career victories to date, one was taken from an impressive late breakaway in the Gran Piemonte one day race last year.

However, his Italian victory in 2020 was taken solo on an uphill finish, five or ten metres ahead of late counter-attacker Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates). Thursday's Giro d'Italia stage was a more complicated breakaway.

Bennett launched some attacks on the last third category climb of the day, the Passo del Carnaio, immediately preceding a fast drop to the finish in Bagno di Romagna to try and go clear, but it didn't work out.

"I'm not going to win the sprint, so I have to gamble," Bennett explained. "If I was a fast guy, I would have ridden that differently, I'd try and cover everything. But if you're 58 kilos and struggle to break 1,000 watts then what's the point of keeping it together?"

Bennett expressed his hopes that rather than what he called "cat and mouse games," he'd be able to make more of an impact in the mountains.

He added that he had been frustrated after "the first gravel finish" on stage 9 where Bennett was also in the day-long break, "because again it came down to games a little bit, and stage hunting and breakaways is not normally what I'm doing, so maybe it takes a while to get the feel of that."

However, the Dolomites and Alps are just around the corner, where physical strength rather than strategy counts for more, and Bennett said he was hopeful that "maybe there'll be a bit more for me in that period." 

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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.