The New Zealander was not selected alongside Tom Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk for the Tour de France, but with the Dutch team putting so much emphasis on ending Team Ineos’ reign at the Tour, the 29-year-old will be handed the chance to ride for himself in Italy.
Bennett, who will also lead the team at the Tour Down Under later this month, has top-10 finish to his name in both the Giro d’Italia (2018) and the Vuelta a Espana (2016), but in 2019 he was primarily used as a super domestique and helped Kruijswijk seal third overall at the Tour.
An operation at the end of 2019 helped to fix a slipping rib syndrome issue that he has been dealing with for several years, with Bennett telling Cyclingnews in November that he "had a big operation a couple of weeks ago, and I hope that will help. I've had the side stitch for ages and it slowed me down a lot this year."
"Every time I go hard I get this stabbing pain in my side," Bennett said at the time. "The surgery is pretty drastic measures, but I've essentially had three ribs removed. That makes it sound worse than it is but each one was around 8cm long and made up of cartilage."
At Jumbo-Visma’s winter training camp in Spain, team director Merijn Zeeman emphasised that Bennett was a rider that the team would back for the Giro. Along with the New Zealander, the team will send sprinter Dylan Groenewegen.
“George Bennett for example, he was clear in his ambitions that he wanted to target the Olympics. That was important for him so we looked at his performance plan and working towards that. This also gave us the chance to bring him to the Giro,” Zeeman told Cyclingnews.
"Of course, he doesn’t have the track record like Dumoulin or Roglic, but George has big potential in our opinion. We really believe that he can do very good things. He’s not a favourite for the Giro, but we have ambitions for him.
“In the Vuelta, Dylan will go with a strong sprint train, we’ll have a strong team for the TTT and Steven will go as our GC leader.”
Jumbo-Visma spent the majority of their off-season devising a plan around the Grand Tours and ensuring that the riders were on board and committed to the project.
“For the Tour we now have an idea and a strategy," Zeeman said. "Then we picked the riders that we felt were needed in order to go to the race and then fight against the best opponents in the world.
"Once we had the team, we looked at the preparation, and now we have a yearly plan for all the riders with input from all the coaches," Zeeman said. "All of that took about two months, but it’s now more or less set. We wanted to create a plan that everyone is committed to."
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