After Vuelta stage win, Daniele Bennati ready to lead Italian team at world championships
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

After Vuelta stage win, Daniele Bennati ready to lead Italian team at world championships

by Shane Stokes at 5:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, World Championships
Leopard Trek rider knows Spanish tour should give him strong form

Daniele BennatiThe Italian sprinter Daniele Bennati received a sizeable boost to his confidence in advance of this month’s world championships when he won today’s 20th stage of the Vuelta a España. Receiving a perfect leadout from his Leopard Trek squad and shrugging off the stress of this week’s turmoil about the team’s future, he powered into Vitoria ahead of Enrico Gasparotto (Astana), Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale) plus the other riders in the front group.

He’ll try again tomorrow, but he’s also looking towards the world road race championships in Copenhagen in 15 days time.

“For a long time already, Paolo Bettini [Italian national selector –ed.] said that I could be the leader of the team. I’m not afraid of the role,” he said, making it clear that he would embrace the responsibility. “I’ll turn 31 the day after the world championship. I’m a mature rider even though I don’t define myself as a champion. If I get the possibility to lead the Italian team, I’ll give 100% to benefit from the opportunity.”

If the expected bunch sprint materialises there, Bennati should be one of those in the running for the rainbow jersey. If so – and if all of the race favourites reach the finish without problems - he’ll likely be up against the likes of Mark Cavendish, who in the past has shown he is faster.

Bennati has however what should be an advantage over Cavendish, defending champion Thor Hushovd and Classics king Philippe Gilbert; he’ll have the full Tour of Spain in his legs, and will also have two weeks afterwards to ensure that he’s fully recovered. That should ensure he is in perfect condition for the race and, he hopes, will see him quickest in the finale.

“The recent history of the world championship says that the rainbow jersey comes out of the Vuelta,” he said, correctly recognising that every winners in the past decade have all completed most or all of the Spanish race. “To be here now with a great condition at the difference of many other sprinters is a boost for my morale. It was important to arrive in Madrid and I might as well win another time there tomorrow.”

Today’s win was partly due to the effort he put in on the first category climb of the Urkiola. He had infiltrated the day’s large break and therefore started the climb with a buffer over the peloton. While he slipped backwards relative to the riders he was with at the time, this advantage plus the effort he put in on the slopes meant that he managed to stay with the big group while the other sprinters were dropped.

Team-mate Stuart O’Grady described afterwards how hard the Italian pushed himself. “I don’t think I have ever screamed so much at a team-mate. I knew that if he made it over the climb, he would win,” he said. “There were no other sprinters left. I screamed at him ‘Stay here. If you make it over, you will win.’ This was the decisive moment. He turned himself inside out to stay with us.”

Doing that will also boost Bennati’s confidence and sense of satisfaction at his victory. “This is especially nice because this stage wasn’t destined for the sprinters,” he said. “Anything could have happened here, so it’s reassuring to take a stage like this one.”


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