Sam Bennett heads into 2020 with new team Deceuninck-Quick-Step and his eyes on the prize of a Tour de France start.
The Irishman moves to the ‘Wolfpack’ after five years with the Bora franchise. His spell with the German team saw him rack up three victories at the Giro d’Italia, two at the Vuelta and three in Paris-Nice, but for the past three seasons, he has been overlooked for Tour de France selection.
“Deceuninck-Quick-Step was one of my dream teams, especially growing up when I was a teenager,” Bennett said in an interview with Irish outlet RTÉ.
“It was something I definitely wanted to be a part of. It was an opportunity that came around at the right time. I couldn’t let it go.”
Though Bennett’s period with Bora allowed him to develop himself into one of the most prolific sprinters in the peloton, he was often left disappointed when the Tour de France squad was announced. Sharing a team with Peter Sagan and GC contender Emannuel Buchmann leaves little space for pure sprinters.
“I feel like I’m coming to a high level,” said Bennett. “I really want to get back to the Tour de France; it’s a big target of mine.”
“Quick-Step are more of a sprint team and they look for more stages in races rather than the general classification. For me it’s the perfect team. I’m going in as one of their lead sprinters so I’m getting really well looked after.”
Although the Tour de France is the objective in the short term, the Irishman wants to broaden his horizon beyond bunch sprints. Bennett cites fellow Tipperary man Sean Kelly as a role model. Kelly took wins across at Milano-San Remo, Paris Roubaix, Giro di Lombardia, and Liege Bastogne Liege, as well as having the kick to win a more traditional grand tour sprinter stage.
“As I get stronger, the engine is getting bigger. I’m able to be more versatile in the races I can compete in,” he said.
“Maybe in the future, hopefully I can be more like Sean [Kelly] in the Classics, but for now I’m looking more at the bunch sprints and stuff like the green jersey in the Tour de France.”
And it’s not just Bennett who thinks he can feature in the spring races – Quick-Step director Brian Holm recently spoke to VeloNews of his belief that Bennett could thrive in the classics, especially with the support of the fleet of one-day specialists in Quick-Step’s roster.
But first things first, Bennett knows he needs to make the cut to be selected in a team packed with talent.
“Quick-Step is a strong team and I’d have to make the cut… In cycling, you’re only as good as your last race. I just have to show that I’m in form, that I’m not putting on weight, that I’m still performing.”