Cyclist George Bennett still battling pesky side strain in Giro build-up

George Bennett
Kiwi cyclist George Bennett. Photo credit: Photosport

It’s an improvement, but it’s not quite right.

New Zealand’s leading road cyclist George Bennett has revealed the niggly side stitch he’s battled for seven years hasn’t disappeared just yet.

The Nelson rider had surgery on the issue last year, a complex process that involved separating a ligament impinging on one of his arteries.

While he hoped that would be the end of it, it hasn’t been the case.

“I have had a few issues," he told Newshub. "It’s definitely made a big improvement, but after the Giro d’Italia, we’re going to have to go back in and do some scans.

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“I didn’t have it all during the Tirreno Adriatico, which was really good, and I got through most of the Tour of Cataluyna, but I had it really bad on the last stage.

“In previous years, I would have had it every second day in the race, so something’s changed, but there might be some residual nerve impingement or something left over from it.”

It’s an unwelcome distraction heading into the Giro, which starts early next month.

“There’s nothing I can do about it now - you just have to fight through it. Having an improvement from the operation’s been great and I just have to take that as bonus.”

It’s been a hectic season already, with his latest endeavour a gruelling altitude camp through the mountains of Europe. He’s based himself at 2300 metres, battling the snow and icy conditions.

His travels have taken him across Spain, from Cataluyna to Andorra and Sierra Nevada.

The LottoNL-Jumbo star’s off to an impressive start this year, recording back-to-back World Tour top-10 finishes. He’s currently taking part in the gruelling Tour of the Alps, as he tries to find the perfect form ahead of the Italian Grand Tour.

After a promising seventh-place finish on the opening state, Bennett faded fo 17th on the final mountain climb on stage two and currently sits 11th overall.

“It’s tracking well, at least from a results perspective. The general numbers, the output and how I’m riding is a big confidence boost."

The Giro D’Italia starts in Jerusalem and features a stacked field, including the likes of Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin and Fabio Aru.

Much of Bennett’s success will rest on the inexperienced team around him. The New Zealander has been up against it in the past, without the support of a battle-hardened roster to guide him through the mountains.

That’s why he’s spent the altitude camps with five of his team in preparation for the slog through Italy.

“We suffer together up here - we battle the altitude, we battle snow. I think all of these things are crucial in forming a tight-knit team, things that you don’t just get from showing up at the same time together.

“We’re a very, very young team going into the Giro. We don’t have a huge amount of experience in terms of climbing domestiques and things like that, but we’ve got some young talent.

"They’ll need to step up for the Giro, like I will as well, and I think they can do it for sure.”