Sean Kelly: Omission of Sam Bennett from Tour de France borne out of frustration

Deceuninck-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevre questioned how seriously injured Bennett was while also commenting on his apparent psychological fragility
Sean Kelly: Omission of Sam Bennett from Tour de France borne out of frustration

Sam Bennett, the double stage winner and green jersey winner from last year’s race, has enjoyed a brilliant season to date. (Christophe Petit-Tesson/Pool via AP)

Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly believes Sam Bennett’s omission from the Deceuninck-QuickStep team for this year’s Tour de France was borne out of frustration at the latter’s decision to leave the team.

The double stage winner and green jersey winner from last year’s race has enjoyed a brilliant season to date and was a shoo-in to start this year’s contest which gets underway in Brest on Saturday.

However, a recent knee injury meant Bennett couldn’t train as well as he’d have liked and despite passing a team fitness test, team manager Patrick Lefevre took the decision to omit the Irishman from the eight-man line-up.

The Belgian questioned how seriously injured Bennett was while also commenting on his apparent psychological fragility.

“I can’t prove Sam doesn’t have knee pain but I’m starting to think more and more that it’s more fear of failure than just pain,” he told the press on Monday.

But Kelly defended his Irish compatriot, saying: “There are rumours going around that maybe Sam didn’t want to go to the Tour with the pressure and all that but I don’t agree with any suggestion that goes that way.

“I think the situation with team manager Patrick Lefevre… Well, we’ve heard about the negotiations around Sam’s contract for the future and Lefevere has said himself that Sam won’t be a QuickStep rider next year.

“Patrick is disappointed with that and I think Lefevere is just getting Sam back a bit with that. It’s nothing new from managers when a big rider leaves and they can’t hold onto them. These comments are made to just get a bit of revenge against the rider. It’s nothing new,” added the former world number one.

“I’ve seen it many times when riders aren’t going to stay with a team and the rider is dropped from the team without explanation.

“I just think he’s saying these negative comments because he’s leaving. Patrick is disappointed, he wants the strongest team and I can see where he’s coming from, but he’s throwing out those comments to get back a bit, I suppose. I think we’ll still see Sam in races later in the year.

“I think Sam's mental toughness is much greater now than it was a few years ago. When he was in the Continental team that we had he had some injury problems and he wasn’t as strong mentally as he is now, but he’s shown that he can beat the best guys in the world.

“Unfortunately, injuries happen and he’s got this one at a very bad moment. I know the feeling. I crashed in the Tour of Switzerland one year and was out for the Tour. It’s a really hard one to swallow but you just have to get over it and then focus on the rest of the season.”

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