The spindly climber from New Zealand accelerated out of the front group near the top of the La Morra climb with 7.6 kilometers remaining in the 188-kilometer race, drawing out and then dropping Gianni Moscon (Team Ineos) on an uphill straightaway. Bennett then held off a surging Diego Ulissi (UAE-Emirates) on the final uphill push to the line, crossing the finish just ahead of the Italian fast man.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) was third.
The win came an hour after Bennett’s teammate Wout van Aert won the opening stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“They told us on the radio halfway that Wout won in the Dauphiné,” Bennett said. “[Primož] Roglič is winning everywhere. I just wanted to get in on the action.”
Bennett’s win is just the second pro victory of his career. In 2017 Bennett claimed the overall at the Amgen Tour of California. Since then, he has ridden primarily as a top lieutenant for Jumbo-Visma’s grand tour leaders Steven Kruijswijk and Primož Roglič. Bennett is expected to be a top lieutenant for Jumbo-Visma at the upcoming Tour de France.
Bennett said the impressive strength of Jumbo-Visma has forced him to seize the few opportunities he has to ride for himself.
“I know I only had two days this season left to ride for myself — I have now and [Il Lombardia], and then I go back to being a domestique,” Bennett said. “On my team, we have the best riders in the world. So, when I have an opportunity, I have to take it. I’m really happy I could do it.”
Bennett’s attack came shortly after the main field began to shatter on the final run-in to the finish of the hilly race. Driven on by Trek-Segafredo, Astana, and Jumbo-Visma, the main field shut down the survivors of the early breakaway Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team) and Mikkel Frølich Honoré (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) with 9km to go.
Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) was first to attack taking teammate Giulio Ciccone with him. Bennett was next to accelerate, climbing away from the Trek-Segafredo duo with Moscon on his wheel.
Moscon gritted his teeth to match Bennett but eventually exploded on the ramp. Bennett pushed on, climbing out of the saddle with his hands in the drop bars, as behind the group exploded. Van der Poel accelerated from the group with Simon Gesche and Attila Valter (CCC Team).
Bennett’s gap opened to 10 seconds on the descent from the climb. As he began the final 1.2km climb to the finish the heavens opened up and doused the group with rain. Bennett pushed on but began to fade inside the final 500 meters. After Bennett made the final right-hand turn with 200 meters remaining the front group appeared behind him, with Ulissi accelerating out of the bunch. But Bennett held a small gap to the line, crossing just ahead of the Italian.
“I wanted to wait until the hardest part of the race. I was really worried it wasn’t hard enough,” Bennett said about his decisive move. “I asked the boys to make it as hard as they could — all of the boys positioned me all day. Chris [Harper] made it super hard on the last bit fo the climb. Vincenzo tried to attack and I could see he was fading a little bit and as soon as I felt that I went.”
Gran Piemonte Results
- George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), 4:38:23
- Diego Ulissi (UAE-Team Emirates), at s.t.
- Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), at 0:04
- Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana), at s.t.
- Simon Geschke (CCC Team), at s.t.
- Alex Aranburu (Astana), at s.t.
- Dries Devenys (Deceuninck-Quick Step), at s.t.
- Robert Stannard (Mitchelton-Scott) at 0:07
- Giulio Giccone(Trek-Segafredo), at s.t.
- Attila Valter (CCC Team), at s.t.