'I thought I was going to die' - Sam Bennett reveals Giro d'Italia illness

Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) was expected to feature in the first sprint stages of the Giro d'Italia, but after stage 1, where his teammate Lukas Pöstlberger got away to win the stage, Bennett was beset by stomach problems and was lucky to make it to the rest day. Bennett revealed that he lost three kilograms overnight on Friday and felt like he was 'going to die'.

The Irishman is writing a blog for the Irish Independent newspaper during his time at the Giro and his latest entry, covering stages 2 and 3, details illness that began after the opening stage in Sardinia on Friday.

"I'd had a couple of visits to the loo before [Friday's] stage but put it down to nerves. Obviously though, those trips were a sign of things to come and I spent more time on the toilet that night than I did in bed," Bennett wrote. 

"Although Lukas [Postlberger] had left our room door open because it was so warm, when I did mange to crawl into my bed, I was shivering under the duvet. Sitting down to breakfast a full three kilos lighter than I had been the previous morning, with a banging headache and a high temperature, I knew I was going to have a hard time."

Bennett did indeed have a hard time on Saturday's stage 2, explaining how he "suffered like a dog all day" with a "bloated stomach and aching joints". With Postlberger wearing the pink leader's jersey, the Bora-Hansgrohe team were charged with setting pace at the head of the peloton, but Bennett spent the day simply trying to hang onto the back.

"My directeur sportif was radioing me to move up on the flatter sections so that I could drift back on the climbs but I just didn't have the energy to do anything," said Bennett. 

"Rudi tried to get me to move up the field on the descent leading into the second-category climb but I felt dizzy and couldn't concentrate properly so I just hung back, afraid I'd make a mistake and crash.

"As my stage win drifted off into the sunset with the rest of the peloton, Jan [Barta] towed me along in his slipstream for the last 50km or so. Without him, I definitely wouldn't have finished today. Afterwards, I boarded the team bus, stumbled into the shower, got changed and fell asleep on the floor."

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After forcing down a bowl of rice at dinner on Saturday, Bennett slept for a full 11 hours, helping him to recover somewhat ahead of the final stage on Sardinia. 

It was another flat stage and, on paper, another opportunity for Bennett, but when Quick-Step blew the race apart in the crosswinds in the final 10km he chose to put his health first and sit up and roll gently to the finish line.

"A mid-stage chat with Philip Deignan reminded me that, even though I felt better, I wouldn't recover properly if I hammered myself," he wrote. 

"Today [Sunday] was hard but it was much better than yesterday. My stomach is still a little bit upset but at least I can handle it now. Yesterday [Saturday] I thought I was going to die."

Monday's early rest day is a welcome opportunity to return to somewhere near full fitness and boost his chances of getting something out of the remainder of this Giro. 

"Hopefully, I can take full advantage of having no racing and be back to normal the next day," Bennett concluded.  

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