Bennett hoping for strong Under 23 worlds ride despite knee niggle
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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bennett hoping for strong Under 23 worlds ride despite knee niggle

by Shane Stokes at 5:02 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
O’Loughlin believes big result is possible if race goes to plan

Sam BennettIrish rider Sam Bennett is a dark horse for a big result in today’s under 23 world championship, having the talent and past results to clock up a strong finish but also having disrupted preparation due to a knee niggle which flared up during the Tour of Britain.

The 21 year old An Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly rider finished fifth, sixth and ninth on stages, but withdrew on day six due to knee pain. At the time he explained that it was an issue he’d encountered several times before in the past and felt that resting it would help it settle it down.

“I am not really worried, I have enough experience of it to try to get rid of it,” he told VeloNation. “I will get physio on it straight away, but it is more of a precaution more than anything. I didn’t want to get injured with it again.”

Bennett travelled to the world championships on Monday, getting more treatment and logging some training too. He didn’t do as much as planned as the issue dragged on somewhat. “We are hopeful that he will be okay; he was worried the last few days,” he coach Martin O’Loughlin told VeloNation yesterday. “He slightly aggravated it the other day. It felt okay today but he didn’t push it too hard. So hopefully it will be okay.

“His knee made progress every day this week but there was one stage when he needed to do intensity work and it flared up slightly again. Otherwise he’s in fantastic form so if he has to push through a little bit of pain, he is prepared to do so…he is well up for it.”

A former European junior champion in the points race and one of the youngest An Post Rás stage winners ever, Bennett won the 1.2 GP van de stad Geel last year, was seventh in this year’s European championships and clocked up those three top ten stage finishes in the Tour of Britain against older and far more experienced riders.

In fact, he felt that he could have been third on the Tour of Britain stage to Blackpool but wasn’t quite correctly placed.

“Going into the last corner, I didn’t know if it was going to be really slippy or tight…I should have paid more attention and gone on Google Maps. If I knew I could have gone in quicker, I would just have dive-bombed it,” he told VeloNation. “The two guys ahead left a gap. I was coming really quick at the end. Three of them were beside each other and if I could have got around them, I would have been on the podium. That would have been great, but fifth is also good.”

The results there were encouraging, particularly as he had a period over the summer where the results didn’t come as expected. He became frustrated, but then things clicked and his performances picked up.

“I changed the way I was training, my lifestyle too with sleep and food,” he said, explaining what turned things around. “I lost two kilos and I started training with watts. That works for me a lot better than heart-rate…there is no comparison. I’m happy, I’ve found what works for me.

Despite the interruption to his training this week, O’Loughlin – who is managing several Cycling Ireland teams this week but not the Under 23 squad – said he was hopeful of a good ride today from Bennett.

“He was seventh in the Europeans so he has shown he has that pedigree. He is going very well. Philip Lavery is going excellent as well. We are not putting all our eggs in one basket, but Sam has done it before. He is going very, very well, he rode really well in the Tour of Britain. We are hoping he will have a good worlds.”

He wasn’t worried about the Cauberg, feeling that the climb wouldn’t pose issues. “It is a power rider’s hill, he likes it,” he said. “He’s lost a considerable amount of weight this year too. That was planned and it paid dividends…you could see he was flying up the climbs in Britain.”

Bennett said that he’d adopt a patient approach rather than trying to go with everything. “I want to give the worlds a good go, but I will probably be really conservative and wait until the last few kilometres and use my sprint,” he said. “I will take a gamble and see if it works out.”


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