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Sam Bennett: Cycling is now so scientific I feel I'm not riding a bike anymore

PARIS FRANCE SEPTEMBER 20 Sprint Arrival Alexander Kristoff of Norway and UAE Team Emirates Peter Sagan of Slovakia and Team Bora Hansgrohe Sam Bennett of Ireland and Team Deceuninck QuickStep Green Points Jersey Celebration Elia Viviani of Italy and Team Cofidis Solutions Credits Mads Pedersen of Denmark and Team Trek Segafredo World Champion Jersey during the 107th Tour de France 2020 Stage 21 a 122km stage from MantesLaJolie to Paris Champslyses TDF2020 LeTour on September 20 2020 in Paris France Photo by Stephan Mantey PoolGetty Images
Sam Bennett won on the Champs Elysees to seal the green jersey at the 2020 Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)

Sam Bennett has acknowledged a tendency to obsess over performance data, highlighting the threat of becoming disconnected both from the act of riding a bike and from everyday life.

The Irishman has kept a low-profile since his fall-out with his former team, QuickStep, last summer, but gave an in-house interview to his new team, Bora-Hansgrohe, at the weekend.

He was posed with a string of off-beat questions, one of which was what he’d title an autobiography.

"Chasing numbers. I don’t know, maybe something like that,” Bennett replied. “It [cycling] has gone so scientific now that I feel that I’m not riding a bike anymore, I’m often just chasing numbers."

The influx of science and technology in the past 15 years has certainly altered the lifestyle of a professional cyclist, and some have struggled to come to terms with a regime governed by data. Bennett, however, appears happy with it.

"You start training in the off-season and of course it’s hard in the beginning but the best motivator is when you see results, when you see the data in training and then you just get hooked because you can see form growing and different aspects of your fitness growing," he said.

"That’s something that’s encouraging. I’m always chasing numbers, but it keeps it interesting. It’s something that I quite enjoy."

That said, Bennett did acknowledge the threat of chasing those numbers, revealing that he sometimes finds it hard to switch off from the pro cyclist’s mindset.

"I get so focused on cycling and cycling takes up so much of my life, that I forget every other aspect of life," he said.

"Normally I go for a drive, I’m a big petrolhead, or anything to do with wheels. I just try to get out of the house or apartment or wherever I may be, because I’m often stuck in the old-school cycling mentality where I have to be off my feet. So once I’m not training or doing something productive towards cycling, I try to rest, but that’s often not the best thing to clear the head, so I have to try to get out and do more normal stuff, I think." 

Bennett returns to Bora-Hansgrohe in 2022 after a two-year spell at QuickStep that saw huge success, including two stage wins and the green jersey at the 2020 Tour de France, but ultimately ended in disarray after a disputed knee injury and a fall-out with team boss Patrick Lefevere. 

While Lefevere repeatedly attacked Bennett in the press, the Irishman kept quiet and is now looking ahead to upcoming season, where he said his top priority is "to really return to my top level".

He listed Milan-San Remo and the World Championships road race as major objectives but the biggest one will come in the middle as he returns to the Tour de France. Now 31, he’s determined to tick off more of his career goals, which goes back to his comments on being so extremely focused on all aspects of his performance.

"You often get sensations where you know you can improve in a certain areas and I feel if I never gave it my all and if I left some area within performance without doing everything I could to bed the best I could be, I would never forgive myself, because knew I wasn’t the best version of myself," he said. 

"[I have] the fear of never being as good as I want to be. I’m always chasing these ideas and these results, and still sometimes it feels very far away, and I feel if I don’t get them before I retire maybe I won’t be satisfied with my career, so that keeps me motivated and keeps me on my toes, so that I don’t really relax too much."

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