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Monaco resident Sam Bennett will cycle on roads very familiar to him when the 2020 Tour de France gets underway in Nice on Saturday.
The Flanders, Belgium-born Irish rider will head the Deceuninck – Quick Step team along with Frenchman Julian Alapjilippe, the man who lead the 2019 Tour de France until the last Friday of the race.
Twenty-nine-year-old Bennett admits that the local roads will pose a test for the participants, jokingly admitting:
“Normally I should be looking forward to the Tour but I know how hard the roads are so it’s going to be difficult, but yes it’s very nice to be racing on ‘home’ roads, well second-home roads.”
With Bennett returning to La Grande Boucle for the first time since 2016, the Irishman feels a sense of excitement with the opening stage quickly approaching:
“I’m excited and looking forward to the race beginning. I’m really excited to be back in the Tour de France especially to be here with this team Deceuninck – Quick Step.”
Along with Julian Alapjilippe, Bennett will be joined on the Belgian outfit by Danes Kasper Asgreen and Michael Mørkøv, Belgians Tim Declercq and Dries Devenyns, Bob Jungels of Luxembourg and Zdenek Štybar from the Czech Republic
With three stage wins in the 2018 Giro d’Italia and two in the 2019 Vuelta a Espana, both for his former team Bora-Hansgrohe, on his palmarès, Bennett is hopeful of adding one at cycling’s biggest event:
“I know we have a fantastic team for this race and we should be able to have a good shot in a lot of stages here.”
According to the team’s directeur sportif Tom Steels, Bennett will, as expected contest the sprints, with the Belgian former professional warning against too high expectations for the Irishman due to the nature of this year’s course.
“In Sam, we have a contender for the bunch sprints,” says Steels, but admits “(it) won’t be so straightforward as in the past, the route being one of the toughest in recent memory. I think there are maximum four clear stages for sprinters spread over the three weeks.”
Michael Mørkøv will act as Bennett’s lead-out man when those few sprinting opportunities will arise. Tim Declercq is expected to be visible to the front of the daily peloton. Dries Devenyns will operate as Alaphilippe’s trusted domestique, with Štybar, Jungels and Asgreen expected to assist the team’s main players as well as look for their opportunity to take a stage victory.
Bennett, who cycled with the An Post-Seán Kelly Cycling Team from 2011-13, has already shown some good form in this interrupted season. He began 2020 winning the inaugural Race Torquay in Australia and also sprinted to the opening stage of the Tour Down Under, in the process becoming the first Irishman to both win a stage and wear the leader’s jersey in the race.
He then won the 164km fourth stage of the Vuelta a Burgos in Spain before successfully completing his Tour de France preparations when claiming Stage 4 of the Tour de Wallonie on August 18.
Bennett will be one of three Irishmen competing in the 2020 edition of the Tour when he will be joined on the starting line in Nice this weekend by cousins Nicolas Roche of Team Sunweb and Dan Martin of Israel Start-Up Nation.