He’s already had a successful debut pro season with three UCI victories and one kermesse, but Sam Bennett remains hungry and is determined to clock up several more wins before 2014 draws to a close.
The Irishman secured a deal with the NetApp Endura squad last autumn when he won a stage and finished second in two others in the Tour of Britain. He quickly got into his stride as a pro continental rider, winning the Clasica de Almeria in March, the Rund um Köln in April and stage five of Bayern Rundfarht in June. He followed that up with a kermesse victory in Belgium.
Despite that, he said that he felt he was not in as good physical shape as when he rode the 2013 Tour of Britain with the An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly squad. Bennett has spent the past month trying to change that.
“I had one week completely off, then three weeks straight with no day off. It was just massive block, and now I’m trying to get race speed again,” he told CyclingTips. “Last week I did a crit on Tuesday, a crit Saturday and a kermesse on Sunday.
“I was doing the crits and it was a case of, ‘ah, I don’t feel too bad.’ But then I did that kermesse on Sunday and it took me two hours to find my legs due to the speed of it. I kind of got into it after that. The form seems good, but I am just glad I got that kermesse in, because jumping into London with the amount of kilometres in that race would have been suicide.”
Bennett will compete in the Prudential Ride London Classic on Sunday, and knows the race could suit his characteristics. While he’s got less recent racing kilometres in his legs than many of those he will be up against, he still believes that a strong performance is possible.
“I have worked really, really hard so I would like to think that what I have put in, I am going to get out,” he explained. “I definitely feel a lot more prepared starting this second half of the season than I did starting my first half. And I have a lot more confidence.
“I am a bit more calm, but at the same time this season is coming to close and I want more results. So hopefully it will work out.”
Bennett is a very strong sprinter, but the 23 year old is more than that; he won the Caerphilly stage of last year’s Tour of Britain, riding strongly on the steep climb which thinned out the bunch and forced the final selection. He’s got more versatility than many other gallopers, and knows he could use that to his advantage on trickier courses.
However even if things stay together in other events, he is clear about the benefits of being in better shape.
“I was a protected rider a lot in the first few months of the year. That’s a good thing, of course, I am not complaining about that at all,” he said. “But I couldn’t really build form; I was riding races and then trying to stay fresh and not get sick between them. Because of other years [when he had periods of injury and illness], I was always doing things on the safe side.
“I’ve now done a load of training and brought the fitness up a lot. So when I do get to the finish, I will be a lot fresher. When you do that, you are just going to be faster in the finale.”
After the Prudential Ride London Classic, Bennett will return to his base in Belgium. He will then travel to the Arctic Race of Norway, running August 14 to 17, where he should have a chance to get involved in some sprint finishes.
Looking further ahead, he said that he hoped that his NetApp Endura team will have a place in the Tour of Britain and that he can try to repeat his success there.
“It is a race I would be targeting if we are in it. I’d like to do well in that,” he confirmed. “There are still a few weeks to go but hopefully I will have good legs after a bit of racing, after the big block, and I can finish the season strong.
“I have kind of planned my training to simulate the build-up of last year. The hope is that I will have really good form and pull together a lot of results. But it is always hard to predict how the legs will follow.”
If things go to plan, he has a personal target which he wants to achieve. He’s keeping it to himself, though.
“I have a number in my head in terms of the amount of wins I would like out of the season,” he said, “but I don’t want to say that figure for fear of sounding arrogant.
“But I would definitely like to get more wins than I have in the first half of the year. If I can do that I would be happy.”