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Bennett gets back into gear as racing returns in Burgos

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Sam Bennett. Photo: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Sam Bennett. Photo: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Sam Bennett. Photo: Bryan Keane/INPHO

For the first time since crashing out of Paris-Nice in mid-March Sam Bennett pins a number on his Deceunick-Quickstep race jersey this morning, when the elite peloton rolls back into action.

This week marks the return of top-level racing across Europe as the five-day Vuelta a Burgos starts today, with Eddie Dunbar also on the startlist for Team Ineos, before the World Tour returns with Saturday's Strade Bianche, where Nicolas Roche will be in action for Team Sunweb.

Despite winning on his first outing back in January at the Tour Down Under, Bennett knows victories are what the big Belgium outfit expect from their headline sprinters. But Burgos will also be an opportunity to fine-tune for the Tour de France which is less than five weeks away.

The Waterford fastman spent most of the enforced break at home in Ireland, but is fresh from a three-week training camp in the Dolomites, in northern Italy, and he is confident his form is good, if untested.

"The shape is really good and with a bit of racing in my legs I'll be ready," he told Cyclingnews.

There are only two real sprint opportunities - tomorrow and Friday - where Bennett will be expected to shoot it out with the likes of Mark Cavendish, Giacomo Nizzolo, Arnaud Demare and Fernando Gavira, who says he has fully recovered after contracting coronovirus and enduring a prolonged quarantine in the Middle East after the UAE Tour was cut short in February.

Today's technical run-in, which comes with a kick in the final kilometre, is more suited to the power climbers like Alejandro Valverde and Quickstep's rising star Remco Evenepoel, but don't be surprised to see Bennett test his legs.

Dunbar is riding in his first race since that UAE Tour was cut short and the Corkman is part of a Ineos line-up full of fire-power.

Colombian Ivan Sosa (22) defends the overall title he has won for the last two years running, while the 2019 Giro d'Italia winner Richard Carapaz rides in the Ineos colours on European soil for the first time.

Protocols

Bennett, Dunbar and the rest of the field will have to undergo Covid-19 tests ahead of their return and extra protocols are in place. However, the riders are well aware how unpredictable the global calendar is. On Monday, Italy introduced new rules that meant those returning from the Sibiu Cycling Tour in Romania were faced with a 14-day quarantine, ruling them out of action until August 8.

With the three Grand Tours and 'Spring' Classics all rescheduled to take place within a 10-week window - starting with the Tour on August 29 and finishing with the Vuelta a Espana on November 8 - there's little room for the riders or race organisers to manoeuvre.

Irish Independent