George Bennett: Strengthened Ineos and Pogacar among Jumbo-Visma's 2021 challenges

BAROLO ITALY AUGUST 12 George Bennett of New Zealand and Team Jumbo-Visma Gianni Moscon of Italy and Team INEOS during the 104th Giro del Piemonte 2020 a 187km race from Santo Stefano Belbo to Barolo 294m GranPiemonte GranPiemonte on August 12 2020 Barolo Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
New Zealander George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) at the 2020 Giro del Piemonte (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

After falling just short at the Tour de France, Jumbo-Visma’s collective strength delivered a Grand Tour triumph at the Vuelta a España, where Primož Roglič secured overall victory for the second year in succession in Madrid on Sunday.

George Bennett was part of Roglič’s supporting cast in both France and Spain, and he believes that Jumbo-Visma have established themselves as a reference point for the rest of the peloton, though he acknowledged that maintaining their position into 2021 will be a challenge.

Jumbo-Visma claimed 23 victories in the shortened 2020 season, including seven Grand Tour stages, Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, leaving them vying with Deceuninck-QuickStep for top spot in the UCI rankings.

“Last year was our big year where we really arrived, but this year I think we even took a step up. Now the big task is going to be staying here,” Bennett told Eurosport. “People look to our model of racing. We copied Ineos in a way, and I think people will then look at what we’re doing and say, ’OK, this is the future.’”

Jumbo-Visma usurped Ineos Grenadiers’ status as the dominant team at the Tour, although the race ended in disappointment when Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) divested Roglič of the maillot jaune on the penultimate stage.

Ineos Grenadiers responded by winning the Giro d’Italia through Tao Geoghegan Hart and placing second at the Vuelta with Richard Carapaz, while the British squad have also been very active in the transfer market after allowing Chris Froome depart for Israel Start-Up Nation.

Bennett, who won Gran Piemonte, placed second at Il Lombardia and 12th overall at the Vuelta, acknowledged that the collective might of a revamped Ineos and the individual gifts of Pogačar would pose a formidable challenge in 2021.

“If we can keep the band together, we’ll keep going well,” Bennett said. “I look at the signings from Ineos, they’ve got [Adam] Yates going there, [Daniel] Martinez, Richie Porte. You’ve got rumours of [Aleksandr] Vlasov…

“Then there’s UAE with Pogačar. [Based on] what he did on the Tour, you could have the eight strongest guys in the race, but if you don’t have him, he’s hard to beat. There are heaps of challenges ahead and heaps of things we have to improve on, but honestly, I don’t want to think about that for a couple of weeks. I’ll let that be a problem for 'Future' George.”

In the here and now, Bennett also paid tribute to his leader Roglič, who responded to the trauma of losing out at the Tour by winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Vuelta, where he also picked up four stage victories.

“He is a really, really good guy, but don’t let him fool you: he’s a killer as well, he’s got a lot of mongrel in him, which he uses on the bike. But off the bike, he’s a gentleman,” Bennett said. 

“It’s a pleasure to ride for a guy like that. It makes a big, big difference. After the Tour there was no way I wanted to get up and ride the Vuelta, but when Primož said he was up for it, that gave me the motivation to get myself together and make it happen.”

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Cyclingnews is the world's leader in English-language coverage of professional cycling. Started in 1995 by University of Newcastle professor Bill Mitchell, the site was one of the first to provide breaking news and results over the internet in English. The site was purchased by Knapp Communications in 1999, and owner Gerard Knapp built it into the definitive voice of pro cycling. Since then, major publishing house Future PLC has owned the site and expanded it to include top features, news, results, photos and tech reporting. The site continues to be the most comprehensive and authoritative English voice in professional cycling.