Top Kiwi cyclist George Bennett slams NZ drivers after Bozzone collision

Bozzone Bennett
Terenzo Bozzone and George Bennett.

New Zealand's top road rider George Bennett has unloaded on Kiwi motorists - and cyclists - after the collision that put triathlon star Terenzo Bozzone in hospital earlier this month.

Training for the world Ironman championships in Hawaii in October, Bozzone, 33, was riding in the west Auckland countryside, around Kumeu, when he collided with a truck on July 3.

The driver stopped briefly to check on him, before speeding off, and the athlete was rushed to hospital with severe facial and head injuries, and concussion.

The incident stunned local cycling and triathlon communities, and obviously left Bennett seething from his European base in Girona, Spain, where Bozzone has also trained.

"That was pretty terrible," Bennett told Newshub. "My girlfriend baby-sat Terenzo's little boy over here, so it's not just another stranger.

"It was a big shock. I know he's going to be all right, but it doesn't change the ongoing problem on our roads.

"It's definitely a two-way problem and sometimes I see cyclists doing crazy stuff, because I also drive a car, but overall the attitude of drivers towards cyclists is shocking."

Bennett has established himself as the New Zealand's best-ever Grand Tour performer, with eighth at this year's Giro d'Italia and 10th at the 2016 Vuelta a España. This week, he signed a three-year extension with his LottoNL-Jumbo professional team.

He has seen many of his colleagues killed or injured on the roads, and fell victim himself, when a car turned into his path during a training ride in April. Bennett escaped serious injury and finished fifth at the Tour of the Alps in Italy shortly after.

"There are two major issues," he said. "Terenzo's out riding alone, he's hit by a truck and the guy keeps going - that's just a straight attitude problem.

"So there's attitude and then there's awareness - you've got people on their mobile phones. One of my good friends was killed a couple of days before Christmas last year by a girl on her phone.

"It's something that really scares me. I do everything I can to make myself safe with lights, but I've been hit by a car a couple of times in the last few years and come away pretty lucky, considering the hits.

"When my girlfriend's out riding, my parents get on their bikes or my friends... it's something that really worries me."

The Nelsonian spends most of his time in Europe these days and doesn't look forward to training on NZ roads.

"I love coming home, but I don't like riding my bike in New Zealand, just because of the way the roads are built and the drivers. That's going to get worse as more people realise we need to get on a bike to save the planet and not get too fat."

Bennett has bypassed the Tour de France and his currently training for another tilt at the Vuelta in August/September.