Saturday, July 24, 2021
HomeInterviewsGeorge Bennett - "I Couldn't Say No"

George Bennett – “I Couldn’t Say No”

-

With all the recent transfer news about who is going where in the ProTour, or UCI World Tour as it will soon be known, certain 2011 signings of interest seem to have slipped under the radar. One which caught the attention of VeloVeritas was with Team Radioshack’s U23 feeder team, Trek-Livestrong. After another stellar season for Trek with at least five riders moving up to top UCI World Tour teams; including Britain’s Alex Dowsett who’s making the step up to Team Sky. These moves leave spaces to be filled and one of the riders moving into the top American U23 line-up is New Zealand’s up-and-coming star George Bennett.

George Bennett
George Bennett, or “GB”.

George, or GB as he’s known back home, has spent the last two years racing in France – this year riding successfully for top French amateur team C.R.4.C Roanne, with a: stage win Tour de Vineyards, NZ and second on GC,: 9th on GC at the Tour of Wellington, NZ, a: stage win in the Tour of Tasmania, plus: 4th and 5th on stages, together with 6th on GC, at the Ronde de l’Ariege, France.

George made the bold move away from home at 18 years old and has never looked back since. This is what he had to say to us…

What was your racing background before moving to Europe?

“I started cycling as a casual mountain biker keeping fit for rugby which I’d played since I was five.

“I started doing the odd event here and after getting a roadie for training, boom that was me!

“I chucked in the rugby and started focusing on riding. I did a World MTB champs but the road was where I was headed.

“On finishing school I took a gamble and decided Uni. could wait and gave riding 100%.”

Tell us about your move to France 2 years ago?

“Once the riding got serious the dream shifted from being an All Black to being a pro living in the south of France riding the Tour.

“I didn’t really have anything lined up but knew a guy who knew a guy who offered a place at his house in Switzerland.

“I put my bike in a box and shipped off!

“I found myself in an extremely hard situation, no team, no money and living with a guy who couldn’t speak a word of English.

“I knew some other Kiwis on a French team and after winning my first race I got a ride with them, for VCC Morteau Montbenoit.”

George Bennett
George won the Tour de la Drome, amongst a good few other races.

Moving back to the present, how did the recent Trek-Livestrong move come about?

“I had a good race at the Ronde de L’Isard (International U23 stage race in France) which made me start thinking about 2011.

“A few emails later and I was talking to Axel (Merckx, Team Director at Livestrong), but ended up taking an offer from VC La Pomme Marseille (probably the best French amateur team).

“However towards the end of the season, La Pomme were in a position to progress to Continental status, run as a Pro Continental team in France (2 year contracts as neo-pro) and I decided it was a bit early for me.

“I got in contact with Craig Adair, a Kiwi who helps a lot of young guys in NZ and we started talking again with Axel.

“The good news came through a few weeks ago, I couldn’t say no.”

What are you most looking forward to next year?

“Definitely being part of a team that I can work with and really fit into.

“Racing in France as a foreigner you’re always an outsider with the language barrier, being with Livestrong I will have the opportunity to work closely with a wicked group of riders and support staff.

“I’ll be learning all over again.

“Also, I can’t wait to be living in Boulder, fitting into society and getting a taste of the US race scene.”

Who have been the most influential riders in your progression over the last few years?

“To be honest I’ve never really had any heroes having got into the sport so late.

“Obviously Lance is a super motivational guy but for me it’s about my mates and local coaches.

“The boys back home don’t know the first thing about racing but have always been influential in how I do things on and off the bike.

“My coach, Robin Reid has brought me up hugely over the last few years physically and tactically, big thanks goes to him.”

At the recent Tour of Southland, George was involved in controversy. He is alleged to have attacked yellow jersey Jeremy Yates, when he crashed at the end of Stage 6.

The two were away with Hayden Roulston when Yates attacked and hit a motorbike official.

Roulston, who was in the hunt for yellow, duly waited, : but George – who was way down on GC – carried on, not knowing whether to give it gas or wait.

George Bennett
George and Jeremy ‘chat’.

He ended up being caught by an adrenaline fuelled Yates just before the line, finishing second, in front of HTC Columbia rider Roulston. Yates went on to criticise Bennett’s ride, calling it unsportsmanlike.

Is that all under the bridge and forgotten now?

“Ha-ha, well you would think so wouldn’t you I guess it highlights the small town mentality that exists with a few riders in NZ.

“As far as I’m concerned it never warranted being called a ‘controversy’.

“It was hugely blown out of proportion and I stand by what happened.

“Lesson learned, but as said I wasn’t racing for G.C and I never attacked, I just didn’t stop.

“I was never fazed about it and nobody else was, except Yates.

“I’d already forgotten about it the second I stepped off my bike so now it’s up to the others to do the same.”

George Bennett
Next stop for George – the National Road Race. image©Kiwi24x7.

You’re back in NZ now, what are winter plans? Or should I say summer plans for you, I’m not jealous at all!

“It’s so good to be home. I’ve already had three weeks off the bike since Southland, most of which has been spent on catching up with mates and family after a year away knuckled down.

“I’ve been doing all sorts, but mostly beach, beers and BBQ’s.

“Training kicks off next week with nearly 30 hours of base riding lined up to get ready for nationals but I’ll make sure I keep enjoying myself while I can.”

Enjoy yourself while you can indeed as the racing season will soon be back upon us in the New Year!

Thanks for your time George, and all the best for a big season ahead with Trek-Livestrong. We’ll be looking out for you.

Tom Copelandhttps://www.veloveritas.co.uk
Having spent a few years racing in France with Brest Iroise Cyclisme 2000, Tom will be racing for Sigma Sport Specialized Racing Team in 2011.

Related Articles

James Oram – New Kiwi U23 TT Champion Rides With Axeon for 2015

Racing with Axeon for 2015 is Kiwi, James Oram who we first spotted when he won the 2011 Tour de l’Abitibi in Canada – the ‘Junior Tour de France’ with Bobby Julich, Tyler Farrar and Taylor Phinney all on the roll of honour. Later that year Oram took silver in the Junior Worlds TT and for the last three seasons has been with Merckx. Last season he cracked the top ten in the Tour of Alberta and World U23 TT Championships and he’s kicked off 2015 in fine style with a win in the New Zealand U23 TT Championship – we had a word soon after his Kiwi win.

Justin Grace – Kiwi Coach Switches from Team France to Team GB

The last time we spoke to Justin Grace – the Kiwi who’s coaching skills had much to do with turning New Zealand into one of the world’s major cycling sprint nations – he’d just left his role at the Land of the Long White Cloud and signed up for – La Belle France. Perhaps it was no surprise to hear that Grace is now with British Cycling as sprint coach – with New Zealand and France among his toughest opposition.

Steve Swart – Former Tour Rider and New Zealander of the Year

The ANC trail is still fresh, after Micky Morrison, Adrian Timmis and Paul Kilbourne all spoke to VeloVeritas, we tracked down another man who was there and just about made it to Paris in that now legendary 1987 ANC Tour de France adventure: Kiwi, Steve Swart.

Book Review: “Oh, THAT Tour!” by Paul Jesson

Paul Jesson has recently finished his autobiography; ‘Oh, THAT Tour!’, the title coming from his introduction to the pro ranks. The book isn’t a conventionally structured tome, starting with a short chapter about the Paralympics time trial/road race bronze medal he came back and won in Athens some 24 years after his Vuelta stage win...

Justin Grace – the Kiwi who is France’s Track Coach

In the ‘old days’ it used to be that the ‘smaller’ and emerging cycling nations would rely on expertise from the ‘Old World’ – European coaches could be found all over the world. But these days it’s all different; and perhaps the biggest surprise in the past year has been first division track nation, France taking on a New Zealander as their coach. Justin Grace is the man, here’s his tale...

Tim Gudsell – Ventouro Owner and former FDJ Pro

Tim Gudsell was originally a track specialist but the Kiwi landed a contract with F des J for season 2007 after a 2006 stagiaire ride gained by winning the 2006 Tour du Haut Anjou - he stayed with the French equipe for four subsequent seasons. But it’s fair to say that the French squad never saw the best of him during a career which was compromised by injury but still saw him ride two Giros and a Vuelta.

At Random

Dan Fleeman Does the Sam

Thursday 11:00 pm and the Giro is just a memory. Reality, work, bills and the Transit; tomorrow, Dan Fleeman is coming up for the Sam Robinson - best grab some sleep. Friday 07:00 am - where am I?

Tour de Trossachs 2010 Preview

Although the start sheet for the Tour de Trossachs is still to be finalised, it's looking to be a very interesting race - the field has been extended to accommodate 140 because the race is proving to be popular with riders of all abilities, and sees National Champions and World Champions taking part, as well as newcomers interested in trying out this classic course. Arthur Doyle (Dooleys RT) will defend his title for the third time, but the big question is will he manage to beat both the hill climb and course record set by Jason McIntyre in 2007...

Ivor Reid

On Tuesday morning we awoke to the sad news that North of Scotland stalwart, Ivor Reid had died at just 57 years-of-age. Tragic. I wasn’t privileged to call Ivor a close personal friend but I knew the man for a long time; from the early 80’s and when we met there was always a warm hand shake and some good chat. When I saw pictures of him racing as a ‘Master’ on the track I always had to smile; the gear was always the best and right up to the minute - be it aero helmets, ‘keirin’ gloves, wheels, shoes, his enthusiasm and love for all things track cycling shone from those images.

Ponferrara World Road Championships 2014 – Juniors & Women. Jonas Bokeloh & Pauline Ferrand-Prevot

I hate to keep moaning about these Worlds, but ... There's no way you can get from the two K to go sign at the foot of the final descent and up onto the climb. Barriers, tapes, police, volantarios (volunteer janitors) - grim! A man who can't walk the course ends up in too many bars.

Our Last Rant of 2013 – Happy New Year!

VeloVeritas thanks you for reading in 2013, hopes that you are having a good holiday season, enjoyed the company of family and friends, ate and drank too much and didn’t have too many arguments. We’ve now entered that no man’s land between Christmas and New Year and whilst we’ll do our best to keep the interviews coming from the track men who are making the boards hum, the rising talents and the men who skim through the mud as sweetly Fred Astaire coming down a staircase – the year cannot be let slip without a rant.

La Vuelta a España, Stage 16: Shooting the Breeze in Gijón

Santander airport, the queues are horrible and we'll have another one for the Stansted to Prestwick flight, no doubt. After yesterday's grim weather we're bathed in beautiful sunshine today. The stage start was in Gijón so we rattled up from Cangas de Onis for our last look at the 2010 Vuelta.