Sport Cycling

Monday 21 August 2017

Sam Bennett: 'You can end up with an arse like a teenager's face'

Giro d'Italia Diary: Monday, April 15 - Rest Day: Assisi

Sam Bennett and Lukas Postlberger decide on sleeping arrangements.
Sam Bennett and Lukas Postlberger decide on sleeping arrangements.

Sam Bennett

As a professional cyclist you get to see places you probably would never have seen otherwise. Sometimes you even get to see places you wish you'd never seen.

Most people think we stay in luxury hotels all the time but there are so many people on a Grand Tour that you're lucky if you get a clean hotel room with a hot shower and fresh bedsheets.

Sometimes I go away on holidays with my girlfriend Tara and she'd take one look at the hotel room and say "we can't stay here" but after spending half the season in dingy little two-star motels or worse, I think it's luxury.

At Tirreno-Adriatico last year, my 'room' was actually a hotel balcony one night. No word of a lie.

Around the edges of the balcony was a barely held-together perspex conservatory, covered over with ripped curtains. With a bed and a chair already squeezed onto it, I couldn't even fit my suitcase in.

With the March wind howling through the gaps in the perspex I slept in my full winter cycling kit.

In fairness, most hotels on this Giro have been fine, apart from the one a few days ago that was redecorated 'in the '80s'.

By accident, I pressed the '-1' button in the lift and walked out into a scene straight from a horror movie. With paint peeling off the doors and walls and a single light bulb flickering in the long dank hallway, I immediately jammed my arm into the lift door in panic in case I got stuck down there.

Another night we had a sensor light from Alcatraz that lit up the whole room any time your toes poked out of the bed, even when we pulled the keycard out of the wall.

If there's a double bed and a single bed in our room, Lukas Postlberger and I usually play 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' for the double.

Because I won the double bed the first time, I decided we'd just rotate from then on, but I hadn't factored in the odds of having a double ahead of today's rest day, which meant Lukie got it for two nights while I slept on a spring-laden sponge last night.

Our room was roasting but the air conditioning looks so old we've been afraid to turn it on for fear of getting sick, and we can't open the windows or we'll be eaten alive by mosquitoes.

At least we have showers on the team bus and can eat in the food truck.

With no race today, I was tempted to stay up a bit later last night but went to bed at the same time to keep my body in the same rhythm, which mightn't seem much but it all adds up over three weeks.

At this level you have to really be in tune with your body and listen to it to see how you're recovering.

I didn't have massage or stretch yesterday but I felt it today.

It's weird, I got more sleep than usual but it was the first time I've woken up tired. A lot of the guys were the same and I think it's more a mental thing; we knew it was a rest day and just weren't tuned in.

At breakfast, the team doctor greeted us with a smiley face and a body fat calipers, to remind us not to eat too much on our 'day off'.

He usually checks us once a month but unless something is way off, doesn't make a big deal of it.

You have to eat on a Grand Tour but you still can't out train or out race a bad diet. I've even put on weight at the Tour de France in the past so I carry a scales in my bag here.

The good thing about having the scales this week was that I saw how much weight I lost when I was sick and it encouraged me to eat a bit more. Maybe if I hadn't had them I'd have just eaten normally and never recovered.

Saddle sores

Sometimes during a Grand Tour, saddle sores can mean you end up with an arse like a teenager's face.

If your shorts aren't washed properly after a rainy stage there could be grit left in them, or if you've crashed and are tight in any area you could end up sitting a bit differently and cause pressure on an area you're not used to, but thankfully I've been fine on this Giro.

With an individual time-trial tomorrow, we went out for an hour's spin on our time-trial bikes this morning and the lower, more aero position was a nice change after nine days in the road position.

Because I'm still recovering from illness I didn't push myself too hard, just did a few high-cadence efforts to keep the legs going before stopping for a coffee halfway through.

For me the next two days are about expending as little energy as possible so I can sprint again on Thursday and Friday.

Giro d'Italia,

Live, Eurosport, 12.00

Irish Independent

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