While veterans like Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Grand Tour winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) have struggled and lost time at the Tour de France, new riders have risen in the overall classification, confirming their ability.
LottoNL-Jumbo's George Bennett finished eighth on the steep finish to Peyragudes on the ski resort runway, after kicking early in a courageous attempt to win the stage. Despite a 20-second penalty for taking a drink close to the finish, Bennett moved up to ninth overall and now sits 4:24 behind new race leader Fabio Aru (Astana).
Bennett has already moved past Contador – who slipped down to 11th at 7:14 after losing contact with the group of leaders near the summit of the Col de Peyresourde. Bennett now has Quintana in his sights. The Colombian is paying a heavy price for targeting the Giro-Tour double and has admitted he will not make the same mistake in 2018. Quintana is only 23 seconds ahead of Bennett, with plenty of mountain racing and the final Marseille time trial to come.
A place in the final top 10 or even higher is within reach of the talented Kiwi who won the Tour of California in May.
"This confirms for me that I can ride with these guys,” Bennett told Cyclingnews as he warmed down before anti-doping.
"I didn't know if Sunday was just a good day (he finished seventh, ed.) I was unsure. I still made a few mistakes, but this is a good learning curve. The most important thing for me is to stay consistent.
"The year started pretty bad for me with glandular fever. After that, almost everything went good. I was always near the top 10 in the other races and I am hoping to build on it. There is no better place for that than here in the Tour de France."
While everyone was expecting Chris Froome (Team Sky) to light up the stage on the final ramp up to the finish line, Bennett was the first to move. His early acceleration perhaps put Froome in difficulty, allowing Aru and then Roman Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) to go clear to win the stage and take the yellow jersey from the Briton.
Bennett regretted his early move but did not regret trying.
"I had really good legs," he said. "A good stage result here would have been nice. Against these guys it is not very realistic to win, but you got to try."
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