Bennett chases place in New Zealand cycling history
New Zealand’s George Bennett rode the time trial of his life to claim an unexpected lead of the Amgen Tour of California today.
Bennett’s fourth placing in the 24km individual time trial at altitude around Big Bear Lake near San Bernadino catapulted him into the lead on general classification.
The Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider will take a 35 second advantage in to tomorrow’s final stage Pasadena as he seeks to become the first New Zealander to win a UCI World Tour event.
The Rio Olympian thought his chances of overall victory had gone when he finished just behind American Andrew Talansky and overall leader Rafal Majka in the mountain-top finish on Mt Baldy yesterday.
But his performance over the time trial today was outstanding, finishing 18 seconds down on winner Jonathan Dibben (Team Sky) but importantly over 40 seconds clear of Majka.
“I’m the most surprised guy that watched the time trial or who was part of the event today,” Bennett said as his press conference. “I never thought I would be here. When I looked at the profile of the time trial course it was fast and furious. You just needed a lot of power today and that’s not what I have.
“I don’t now where it came from. I think just went out there – are you familiar with the expression twisting a nut … that’s all I can think of about my performance.
“It gives me a lot of hope for the future and a lot of optimism and a lot of confidence.”
Bennett will take a 35 second advantage over Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) into the final stage with Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac) a further second behind and fellow American Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) at 45 seconds back.
The final stage is 125km from Mountain High in the San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles County mostly downhill, with three categorised climbs along the way to the finish in Pasadena.