Sam Bennett overcomes Giro snub with multiple wins in Turkey

The Giro d’Italia is just three weeks away, and Sam Bennett is the most prolific sprinter of the professional ranks in the 2019 season so far, raising questions over Bora-Hansgrohe’s choice not to select the Irishman for the corsa rosa, where he won three stages last year, including the grand finale in Rome.

Only Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) has won more races [8] than Bennett in the current season. The fast man from Carrick-on-Suir told Cyclingnews that he is proud to have crossed the line first at least once in each stage race he has taken part in this season: the Vuelta a San Juan [stage 7], the UAE Tour [stage 7], Paris-Nice [stages 3 and 6] and now stages 1 and 2 of the Presidential Tour of Turkey. Beating Fernando Gaviria, Caleb Ewan, Alexander Kristoff and Elia Viviani in Dubai was a masterpiece. In Turkey, he managed to outsprint the likes of Fabio Jakobsen, Ewan and Mark Cavendish.

“I didn’t really know what my condition was like after having a break and putting on some weight after Milan-San Remo,” Bennett said after stage 1 in Terkidağ. “But I knew I’d come back in form quickly. I just didn’t know for which stage.”

Bennet’s sixth win in the technical and uphill finish of Eceabat on the Gallipoli peninsula was very impressive. The second most successful sprinter of 2019 is Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) with five wins while Viviani has four and Gaviria three. Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel and Peter Sagan have just one victory each, whereas Cavendish is yet to win this year. German national champion Pascal Ackermann has claimed two victories: Clasica de Almeria and Bredene Koksijde Classic.

Ackermann is the designated sprinter of Bora-Hansgrohe for the Giro d’Italia starting in Bologna on May 11, and Sagan remains their star rider for the Tour de France.

“There are the Giro and the Tour that I really wanted to do,” Bennett replied when asked if his success so far increases his disappointment at being left out of his team’s selection for the Giro and Tour. “Whether I was doing the Giro and the Tour or not, I approached the season in the same way: as a professional. I thought with the results I have they’d be open to new ideas, but it doesn’t matter.

“I’m just going to take each race as it comes and I’ll try to win wherever I’ll go. But for sure I have the Vuelta at the end of the season. That’s also why I had to drop the form in the last few weeks to build for later in the season. I just have to concentrate on my next races and forget about my own ambitions.”

A Belgian reporter asked him if winning in Turkey was like a revenge on his management’s choices.

“It’s not revenge, I want to win for Bora-Hansgrohe,” Bennett stated firmly. “They’re happy when I’m winning. I’m very proud to ride for this team and I’m delighted when I win for them. The Giro… I’ve already spoken about this. It is what it is, and I have to respect the opinion of my team. They’re my boss. I do what they say.”

A Turkish reporter came with another question over the Giro omission after his second stage win. It left Bennett hesitating before he mumbled: “I’ve come enough to the Giro in the past… I have no more comment on that. We’re in Turkey now and my focus is in this race.”

With nine stage victories at the Presidential Tour of Turkey in three consecutive participations, the Irishman is coming close to Greipel’s record of 11 wins in the modern era of the event.

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