Coach says Sam Bennett ‘on track’ for Tour de France revival
With cycling’s biggest race one month away, the ‘steady as it goes’ approach taken by Bora-Hansgrohe may be about to pay off.
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Will Sam Bennett be back at his best in time to challenge for the sprints and the green jersey at the Tour de France?
Bora-Hansgrohe is betting on it.
Bora-Hansgrohe head of performance Dan Lorang is upbeat about where Bennett is at right now and where he will be in the month of July.
“I am really confident that Sam is on track for the Tour, and that we will see him there at his best and that he can fight for the green jersey,” he told VeloNews.
The Irishman’s coach revealed to VeloNews the training and racing plan Bennett will follow to hit his best form for cycling’s biggest race.
Bennett won two stages plus the coveted maillot vert the last time he rode the Tour in 2020. He was aiming for a similar performance last season, but suffered a knee injury in the weeks before the race and missed months of competition.
The disruption to his training and racing, plus Lorang’s cautious approach this season, saw Bennett take a long time to get back to winning ways.
He notched up podium finishes in the UAE Tour and the Presidential Tour of Turkey, but it wasn’t until the Eschborn-Frankfurt on May 1 when he finally swooped to victory.
Bennett launched a powerful sprint at the end of the WorldTour race, beating Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and the rest of the bunch. It was his first win in 359 days.
The success justified the faith Lorang and Bora-Hansgrohe put in the Irishman, and raised the possibility of him being back to his very best in July. Lorang says that his form has continued to increase since then.
“Sam made a big performance step after his first race block,” he said, referring to the phase of competition which ended at the Presidential Tour of Turkey. “After that we worked on his sprint abilities, on his strength and on some of the anaerobic capacities. This was something we couldn’t do before because of the knee problems.
“When you are in a race period you can also not do these kind of efforts. But after the first block, we were able to do it. We had at least two and a half sessions like that, and then Frankfurt showed already a good result.
“We continued that way by also making a backup of the aerobic capacity, so also getting some hours in and making him fitter. That is why also in Koln he was at a really good level.”
Bennett rode strongly in the Rund um Köln on May 22, but was ultimately unable to chase victory as Bora-Hansgrohe teammates Nils Politt and Danny van Poppel went on the attack with Nikias Arndt (Team DSM). The trio finished in that order, while Bennett appeared poised to take the bunch sprint behind but visibly eased up before the line and was pipped.
“He thought he already had the fourth place but didn’t see Groenewegen passing,” Lorang confirmed. “But he had it in his legs to win the sprint from the group.”
The path back to the Tour de France
Bennett hasn’t competed since Köln but will be back in action next weekend. That will begin the next phase of his buildup to the Tour, a set of races which will complement the training he is doing and will further hone his form.
Lorang outlined his racing schedule to VeloNews, saying that the rider will do a block of three one day races plus one stage race prior to the Tour de France, all in Belgium.
This block of racing will begin next Saturday in the Heylen Vastgoed Heistse Pijl. On Sunday Bennett will contest the Brussels Cycling Classic, and the following day he will line out with the team in the Ronde van Limburg.
The national championships are not on his schedule, with the five-day Baloise Belgium Tour (June 15 – 19) set to be his final competitive outing prior to the Tour de France.
Lorang said that things are carefully planned out.
“From now until the Tour, we are always working in blocks, in terms of his training,” he said. “We will be checking where he is at the moment and what we have to work on. I think in general we will continue like that, always making a balance between trying to keep up his high aerobic capacity, giving some stimulus to that area, and then, on the other hand, going closer to races working on the anaerobic power. Particularly this short thirty seconds to one minute stuff.
“We have also intensified the gym work, but we will now try to switch that a little bit. So, going from more gym work to a little less gym work, and [instead] doing really specific exercises on the bike.”
He said following a structured approach is vital, adjusting and building where necessary.
“That is always something we are doing in the whole preparation period, changing it in two-week blocks just to make sure every stimulus has enough time to achieve what it should achieve.”
What seems clear is that this methodical approach is starting to pay off. When Bennett moved back to Bora-Hansgrohe after two years with Deceuninck-Quick-Step, he told VeloNews that working again with Lorang was one of the big reasons for his decision.
“I was really successful before with the team,” Bennett said then. “And I really discovered myself when Dan Lorang was here. I really worked well with him. The year I left , I think I participated in 20-something sprints, and in only three of them I was outside the top three. I won 13 races. It was some of the best legs I have had. I know Dan can really have me in top shape.”
Congratulations to #TDF2020‘s green jersey winner 💚 @Sammmy_Be on sprinting to victory at @DerRadklassiker! https://t.co/KhzRodZfFL
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) May 2, 2022
Bennett also said that it would take several months to get back up to speed, and that the media and other would have to be patient.
Speaking in April, Lorang told VeloNews that he was adopting an easy-does-it approach to Bennett’s training, building slowly in order to ensure that the injury wouldn’t flare up again.
He also said he was confident that Bennett would return to winning ways, either at the Tour of Turkey or in the races after that.
“Basically what I’m asking for is just had he stays healthy, injury-free, and perhaps has one or two victories before the Tour,” he said at the time. “And then we should be at a good point.”
That is indeed what has happened. Bennett has avoided injury, remained healthy and snatched a win.
Now, with the Tour de France on the horizon, Lorang remains certain that things are going to plan.
“I am really confident that Sam is on track for the Tour,” he said.
If so, Bora-Hansgrohe’s superb Giro d’Italia could be followed by a similarly successful Tour de France.