Saturday 22 July 2017

Sam Bennett: I feel like Katy in Fair City - I don't know what to do now that I'm out

Sam Bennett kisses girlfriend Tara after the final time trial in Milan
Sam Bennett kisses girlfriend Tara after the final time trial in Milan

Sam Bennett

Saturday May 27th, Stage 20: Pordenone to Asiago (190km)

In the last week or so it's become increasingly difficult for our bus driver to get the lads off the bus at the stage starts.

Even though he has to leave at least 15 minutes before us to be at the finish ahead of us, nobody wants to swap the comfortable leather seats for the saddle of a bike until the very last minute.

Today, though, was different. Panini brought out a special sticker album for this 100th Giro, with all of the riders and teams in it. I haven't really bothered too much with it, but most of the guys have theirs all filled in, apart from one blank page left free for stickers of action shots from the race itself.

As those stickers were released this morning, our DS barely had the team meeting over and the guys were gone off the bus, fully kitted, to grab them.

With a final day in the mountains ahead of me, though, collecting stickers was the last thing I was worried about.

Tom Dumoulin celebrates his Giro victory. Photo: Luk Benies/AFP/Getty Images
Tom Dumoulin celebrates his Giro victory. Photo: Luk Benies/AFP/Getty Images

After a fast start this morning a break got clear early on, but because we were on big, wide main roads we could still see them, so the chase continued for a long time.

After 37km, we hit a 1k-long climb and with the bunch splitting, a new escape group formed a few kilometres later, before things came back together behind and the pace settled.

Movistar spent most the day riding on the front after that - or so I'm told. To be honest, I haven't really seen the front in a while.

Today's feed zone was at the bottom of the first category Monte Grappa after 98km, but because we didn't want to climb the 25km-long mountain with more weight than we had to, our soigneurs were at the top with bottles and food.

Having gone into the climb in the middle of the peloton, I didn't even fight on the early hairpins.

I just kept my own rhythm and ended up in a little grupetto.

It was very steep for the first 8km, then the gradient eased off and peaked up again at intervals to the top, so we kept picking guys up on the slope and crested the summit around 40 strong, with 70km left to go.

With our group setting a good tempo on the flat section that followed, we went into the last mountain of this Giro with over 80 guys, but everyone was so tired that we took it easy on the way up.

We were still looking at the clock, but were never under any real pressure from the time cut.

In my head, I thought it was going to be a flat, even downhill final 15km, but at the top of the Foza there was only a brief respite before another 3km slope.

I thought today would be a lot worse, but maybe because we had such had a big group it wasn't too bad.

Patrick Konrad finished 12th today and is now 16th overall, which is awesome considering he was sick in the first week and lost 10 minutes on Mount Etna on Stage Four.

We have a final 260km transfer now on the team bus, but I don't really mind.

With just a time trial tomorrow, the hardest part of this Giro is done now.

Sunday May 28th,

Stage 21: Monza to Milan (27.6m Individual Time Trial)

The pit area of Monza's F1 circuit this morning was our warm-up area and it was a nice experience for a car racing fan. I was just starting my intervals on the home trainer when Matt Stephens of Eurosport came over to interview me, so I had to switch off and get back into it again afterwards.

Having accidentally hit the button for tuning my electronic gears as I carried my bike up the start ramp afterwards, they reset and jumped down and then all the way back up the cogs before I could pedal properly.

Normally I don't enjoy time trials, but today I did. With no pressure on me to do anything other than finish, I went into it expecting to go easy, but when I got out I decided to go a bit harder and averaged 49kph.

It was hard to get the legs moving at first, but I actually felt pretty good out there today and it's nice to know I still have something left in my legs after three weeks of racing.

Coming in to this Giro I was confident that I could win a stage. I put so much pressure on myself to do that, though, that I was mentally drained before the racing started.

When the race came, I got sick and after Stage Two I thought it was all over as I lay on the floor of the team bus unable to move.

I'm disappointed not to have won a stage, but three third places and a second at least prove that I'm capable of doing it in the future.

I fought really hard in those sprints and having the mental strength to go back and try again after each disappointment is a positive I'll take from this Giro. I also finished third in the points competition, which is another big stepping stone.

My Bora Hansgrohe team won the Fair Play classification overall and it was great to share the moment with such a great bunch of lads as we stood on the podium together this afternoon.

Afterwards though, we found out that Lukas Postlberger's wife's car had been broken into. Ignoring his bike and his money, they took his suitcase. It had the pink jersey he won on Stage One in it.

Although I've a bit of a cough now, this is the first time I've come out of a Grand Tour in decent health and I think getting through these mountains is going to bring me to another level.

To ride the Tour de France in July would be too much for me after this, but I'll be back in action pretty soon and will be home for the National Championships at the end of June.

Thanks to everybody back home for the incredible support I've had the past three weeks. I hope you enjoyed reading these diaries as much as I enjoyed writing it.

It's weird, in one way I'm happy this Giro is over, but in another way I kind of want to do more.

I've been living in a bubble for the past three weeks and feel a bit like Katy in Fair City - I don't really know what to do now that I'm out.

Irish Independent

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