George Bennett confirms he will not race UCI Road World Championships

After Pogačar rode to 24th at GP Québec, Bennett said he expects 'Montréal will suit us better.'

Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

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QUEBEC, Canada (VN) — George Bennett is the latest top rider pulling out of the UCI Road World Championships.

This time, it’s not because of the UCI’s battle for WorldTour points or fatigue or visa issues.

Instead, the New Zealand climbing ace is already thinking about 2023, and wants his approach into next season to be as smooth as possible.

“I am not going to the worlds. I just pulled out,” Bennett told VeloNews. “The reason being is that I have to go to Langkawi, to a UAE team camp, I’m here in Canada, and I think if I did the worlds, that would be eight weeks away from home.

“There was no room to move the race schedule around, and something had to give. It was an impossible situation for me, and unfortunately, it’s the worlds.”

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Bennett, 32, is racing this weekend in Canada ahead of what he thought would be a trip to Australia for the worlds.

Yet as his fall schedule started to fill out that already includes a likely return to the Santos Tour Down Under in January and a late-season trip to the Tour de Langkawi in late October, a big trip to Australia seemed like a touch too much.

“Langkawi is in late October, so you have to be quite careful on how you manage everything to make sure you have time to rest, to train,” he said. “I need to make sure I manage the off-season well, and make sure I arrive at Down Under ready to race.”

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And Bennett knows the classics-style worlds course in Wollongong isn’t ideal for his long-haul climbing legs that are more apt for 10km climbs, not the two-kilometer powder kegs on offer in Australia.

His ongoing recovery from COVID-19, which sent him home from the Tour de France, was another factor.

Add it up, and the worlds simply did not fit.

“It’s not a perfect course for me,” said Bennett, who left the Tour de France in July with a case of COVID-19. “I am struggling a little bit since the Tour. I’ve had some good days, and I’ve had some bad days, but COVID’s definitely been hard to overcome.

“I don’t feel great again. I pushed it too hard after COVID to try to make the Vuelta, and that didn’t really happen,” Bennett said. “I tried at the Tour de l’Ain, and I had some good legs, but since the Deutschland Tour, I haven’t been feeling great.

“Maybe it’s not just the COVID, but you had 10 days off, and you’re chasing your tail. And it’s not been a smooth run.”

And then there was the New Zealand price tag for worlds.

The national cycling federation is struggling to cover costs following the departure of a key sponsor in the aftermath of a scandal involving allegations of inappropriate behavior and the death of a former Olympian.

As the scandal continues to broil, Australia-bound riders are being asked to pay part of their own way for worlds as the New Zealand federation moves forward.

Bennett said that wasn’t a deciding factor, and said he would have a gone on his own dime if the worlds course was more favorable to his style of racing.

“I feel like the federation’s had a hard time lately. They got a lot of heat from the media. We had a bit of drama, and Cycling NZ lost a big sponsor,” he said. “If I was in good condition, I would be going.”

Bennett’s started four elite men’s road worlds, with a career-best with 18th in Austria in 2018.

Bennett: ‘Montréal will suit us better’

Pogačar is hoping for a better outing Sunday in Montréal. (Photo: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

On Friday, Bennett’s teammate Tadej Pogačar kicked to 24th in the explosive finale in Québec.

Bennett expects the longer, more demanding climbs on the Grand Prix de Montréal circuit to better suit UAE Team Emirates for a top result Sunday.

“When it kicked off, we missed it. It made my life pretty hard,” Bennett said Friday. “That was my job to close that down. I think Sunday’s a better race for us, at least for Tadej, and for me and Davide [Formolo].

“It’s special to race here, on these inner-city circuits like this and the crowd and the atmosphere,” Bennett said. “It’s great to bring cycling directly to the people, instead of being out in the middle of somewhere in Spain.”

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