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Sam Bennett heads to UAE Tour with limited expectations

'It will take a while, so I probably will get a bit of hardship from media. But I know it is all part of the process' says Irish sprinter

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Sam Bennett has confirmed that the first race of his renewed association with Bora-Hansgrohe will be at the upcoming UAE Tour, but has said that he will start with limited expectations.

“I’m doing UAE, but it will be more getting back into the rhythm of racing, trying to get in the rhythm with the teammates and with the leadout train,” he told VeloNews in a call.

“Expectations aren’t high, just because the form is taking longer to build up.”

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Bennett was the standout sprinter of the 2020 season, winning two stages plus the green jersey in the Tour de France, as well as a stage in the Vuelta a España plus four other events. He began 2021 on a similarly strong note, clocking up seven victories between February and early May.

However he was injured in early June when he hit his knee on his handlebars during sprint training and was forced to miss the Tour de France. This led to a backlash from the team manager Patrick Lefevere, who said at one point that surgery would be necessary, but Bennett ultimately didn’t require an operation.

He was able to resume training and did a total of four events in September and October.

Missing months of competition plus a deliberate decision to take things at a steady pace means that he will not be in anything like the same form that saw him take UAE Tour stages in 2019 and 2021. He accepts that, and also that he may be faulted by some elements of the press if he isn’t in strong shape.

“It will be a few months now until I really get going. But we have planned this, we have planned a slower build-up into the season to make sure that the body is safe and sound, and that it gets used to the load again,” he explained. “Sprinting is hard on the tendons and the joints.

“It will take a while, so I probably will get a bit of hardship from media. But I know it is all part of the process. I will get there eventually. But it is good to be starting with the team, it is exciting. We will see how things go.”

The 2022 UAE Tour will begin with a flat stage in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, February 20, and concludes six days later with a summit finish at Jebel Hafeet.