Bennett’s Tour dream

Sam Bennett is targeting the podium at the Tour de France in 2015 after just failing to make the team for cycling’s most prestigious event this year.

Bennett’s Tour dream

The 23-year-old sprinter recently had his contract with Team NetApp Endura extended to 2017 after an outstanding first season as a professional that included four wins and a fifth place in the prestigious Scheldeprijs classic in Belgium.

“The Tour de France is the biggest race in the world,” Bennett said. “I had a good first half to the season and then I thought I was going to get picked for the Tour de France but I couldn’t do it in the end. I had peaked for it and then I had six weeks with no racing and it’s just impossible to keep that form.

“It’s the one we want. I’d love to get up in a few stages. I’m not a rider for a general classification but for sprints I’d absolutely love to get up on the podium at the Tour de France. That would be an absolute dream.”

The German outfit have also shown how much confidence they have in the Carrick-on-Suir rider by giving him extra responsibility in organising his lead-out train.

“I kind of feel I must be doing something right,” he continued. “I had four wins this year. The type of races I was doing before I was worried whether I’d finish them and by the end of the season I was able to win them. It’s a great confidence boost.

“To get that much support from the team was brilliant and they’re also bringing in some riders to help with the lead-out train for the sprints, which was something I was looking for from the team in the latter half of the season.

“It’s really a dream. I don’t have to worry about having to perform to get a contract. I can just relax and let it flow.

“It’s a bit easier to get results when you’re not under that much pressure. Obviously you’re always under pressure with the team because you have to perform, but the pressure to keep your job isn’t there.”

Bennett also gave an insight into the responsibility that falls on the top sprinters in stage climaxes.

“It’s a new experience, stepping in as a lead sprinter or captain of the team in certain situations. The pressure was weird at the beginning but you get used to it and learn how to deal with it after a few times.

“In my first race with the team this year, they actually put me as the sprinter and they had the whole team supporting me. I was really, really nervous because I didn’t want all of them working for me and for me to blow up before the sprint even began. Everybody there was giving 110% for me and I didn’t want to let them down.

“The pressure was difficult. To know how to deal with the situation, to improve it, it was difficult at the beginning but I’m getting used to it now.”

The lofty aims for next year and the extra team responsibility represent major progress from last year, when he had reached a point in his career where he had to make a decision about whether to continue with cycling.

But a second-place finish behind sprint king Mark Cavendish in the final stage of the Tour of Britain in 2013 caught the eye of NetApp Endura, who had been on the lookout for a sprinter.

And Bennett is hopeful that a new generation of cyclists will follow him and the likes of Nicolas Roche and Philip Deignan.

“It’s like the new golf. It’s great to see the amount of people cycling on the roads now. The more people that take an interest, the more riders you’re going to see coming through the ranks. Hopefully we can have a few more pros coming through in the next few years.”

* Sam Bennett was speaking at the launch of Waterford-based company Chia bia’s new book Cooking With Chia For Dummies.

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