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Vuelta a Espana

An ice sock stuck in derailleur melts George Bennett’s GC hopes at Tour de l’Ain

Despite attacking in the final, a freak incident in Wednesday's decisive climbing stage cost Bennett a chance to win the overall.

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George Bennett was cursing his luck at the finish line Thursday at the Tour de l’Ain.

The New Zealand climber kicked to third on the final stage in the scorching three-stage race across the edge of the Alps, but it could have been even better if it wasn’t for an errant ice sock.

“I had some bad luck yesterday when I got something caught in my rear derailleur in the last big climb, and I wasn’t able to make back the time today,” Bennett said Thursday at the line.

The day before, Bennett was in contention during Wednesday’s decisive climbing stage when an ice sock that he had slipped into his jersey to relieve some of the scorching temperatures across France got twisted into his derailleur.

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The wet sock got wrapped up and blocked his gears just when the race-making moves were being made, and he was forced to give up the chase to adjust his bike.

The UAE Team Emirates rider never made it back, and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) won the stage and moved into the overall lead. On Wednesday, Bennett chased in behind Martin in eighth at 44 seconds back.

Without any mechanic issues Thursday, Bennett attacked late in the final stage to gap out Martin and the other podium contenders. Bennett found company with Harry Sweeney (Lotto Soudal) and the pair chased behind eventual stage-winner Antonio Pedrero (Movistar) to finish second and third.

Bennett took some finish-line time bonuses, and clawed back 21 seconds to Martin, but it wasn’t enough to overtake the Frenchman for the final victory.

“I really enjoyed this race. I felt good, but I’m a bit disappointed with the result,” Bennett said. “But these things can happen, I still enjoyed racing here with a good group of guys who helped me a lot on every stage.”

Bennett finished seventh overall, and will continue racing at the Tour de Limousin ahead of the Vuelta a España.

The 32-year-old climber was forced out of the Tour de France with COVID-19, and returned to racing with a string of good results, with second overall at the Vuelta a Castilla y León, 13th at the Clásica de San Sebastián, and eighth at the Circuit de Getxo.