George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) says that he’s lucky to be alive after he was hit by a car on the eve of the Tour of the Alps. The New Zealand rider was out with teammate Koen Bouwman doing a recon of the Giro d'Italia's stage 16 time trial, which takes place just down the road from the first stage of the Tour of the Alps between Trento and Rovereto when a car turned into his path.
It was clear even 24 hours later that Bennett was still coming to terms with what he had been through, particularly with the memory of what had happened to Michele Scarponi this time last year.
"I was going pretty fast on the time trial doing a recon for the Giro," Bennett explained to Cyclingnews while warming down after the first stage. "I was riding fast and a car was coming the other way. It didn't see us, and it turned left across the road and I went straight into the side of him and I went over. Luckily I went over the car but I ripped the roof rack off with my knees.
"I was really lucky with how it happened. I'm lucky to be alive I think. It could have been me in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I did a lot of thinking last night. It is pretty close to the anniversary of Scarponi and that's pretty much what happened to him, and my friend Lowndsy [Jason Lowndes] died. It was a bit of a shock and this morning when I woke up I definitely knew that I'd been hit by a car."
The only visible signs of Bennett's crash was some heavy strapping on both of his knees. While he is feeling a little bit battered and bruised, he says that he will be OK for his upcoming general classification bid at the Giro d'Italia.
"Generally, I'm fine. My left knee I was a bit worried about and my left arm. The good thing is, I'm sore everywhere but nothing is really bad. I'm very happy not just for this race but for the Giro, there were a few panicked staff at Lotto-Jumbo last night," he said.
Had it not been for a social media post made by the race organisation you'd have been forgiven for not knowing that Bennett had been involved in an incident. While the opening kilometres were not enjoyable for Bennett, he held his own among the favourites on the final 19-kilometre climb towards the finish in Folgaria.
"I was able to follow and roll with them but Astana had such a big numbers advantage," Bennett explained. "I just trained really hard at altitude with the boys. You never know how you're going to react coming down from altitude and for sure they always talk about a bad day that you’ll have and hopefully it’s not tomorrow."
Stage 2 of the Tour of the Alps will be the toughest of the five with a finish on the Alpe di Pampeago. While Bennett will hope to keep the good times rolling, his main goal is to get through the race in one piece.
"There is no pressure to do GC or something like that. I'll take it day by day and maybe take a stage. If I'm in the GC then that's great, if I'm not then no real stress."
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