Sitting third on general classification, George Bennett identified stage 4 of the Tour of California as one in which he could take time on his rivals better suited to the stage 6 Folsom time trial. The LottoNL-Jumbo rider was aggressive in the Laguna Seca raceway finale, trying to squeeze out any advantage possible only to finish in a worse position than he started.
With riders chasing the stage win and looking to improve their GC position, Bennett found himself caught out as the front group split and finished three seconds behind overall rivals Rohan Dennis (BMC), Rob Britton (Rally Cycling), Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo), Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC) and race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx - Quick-Step).
"[I'm] currently a little bit pissed off to be honest but that's alright," said Bennett as he cooled down after finishing in 18th place, trying not to say anything too contentious in the heat of the moment.
"I probably shouldn't talk too much straight after the race. Some guys can't go around corners, they dropped the wheels on the corners and I think I got a time gap. At this level…that shouldn't happen you know."
Cannondale's Andrew Talansky led home the first group after stage winner Peter Sagan with Sanchez the last man in 12-rider front selection.
Starting his season at the Tour Down Under in January, Bennett headed back to his Girona base in Spain for the start of the European racing season via the Tour of Oman, lining up at Paris-Nice in early-March. From then on, it all went awry for the 26-year-old as he was struck down by illness on two occasions and miss what would have been a debut classics campaign in the Ardennes.
"To be honest, I haven't that felt great coming into this race," Bennett said of his preparation for the race he's ridden twice previously. "I had a lot of time off. I had a really bad spring in which I got sick twice, so a lot of time off. I went to altitude to train, and you know when you come down from altitude you always feel a bit bad. I haven't raced really properly since Paris-Nice, the first few days I was really struggling. Yesterday, I didn't feel super but just keep going.
"Today, I felt better than I did yesterday, so I don't know. I am bound to have a really bad day again, [it's] probably tomorrow than the day after.
"It would be nice to have another mountain top now that I am coming around a bit, but I have to catch them out."
The Folsom time trial mirrors that of the 2014 edition which was won by Bradley Wiggins, 44 seconds ahead of Dennis with Bennett in 58th place two minutes down in the Australian. While the time trial hasn't been forefront in his thinking, Bennett explained he is well positioned for a good ride and will give it his all to retain his podium place.
"The time trial is something I haven't thought too much about. I've done it a few years ago and I know I have a really good bike and have a really good aerodynamics coach and everything like that," he said. "I haven't done any specific time trial training or anything, so today I tried to make up some time and hit out a lot. Too many guys following, not hard enough a race really to do that."
Name checking Dennis as the man to beat, Bennett also identified race leader Julian Alaphilippe as a joker in the deck and capable of avenging his three second lost to Sagan in 2015.
"It will be hard to beat him, but to be honest I think the danger man is Rohan Dennis," Bennett said of his favourites for the win. "I think in my book he is still the favourite for the race. He can time trial like no one else. Right now I am sitting on the podium. I wouldn't be surprised [with the] time trial tomorrow and you can still end up in 10th. It doesn't mean a lot yet.
"Stay on the podium, I'd be disappointed with anything less," he added of his ambition for the race. "Today, it didn't work out but we gave it a special shot."
As Bennett started to indicate the questions would need to wind up, he was asked whether he was a fan of motor racing or knew the track, replying that "yesterday we played it on Need for Speed or something but it was quite different on an iPad" before pedalling off to the team bus.
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