Cycling: Kiwi George Bennett wins Gran Piemonte one-day race in Italy

Kiwi cyclist George Bennett has won the prestigious Gran Piemonte one-day race in Italy. 

The Nelson rider took the lead with 7km remaining, as he completed the 187km race in 4h 38m 23s, finishing just ahead of a fast-finishing Italian Diego Ulissi.

Riders started the day in humid 30c heat, but finished in pouring rain. 

The win is the second of Bennett's professional career, after heading the general classification at the Tour of California three years ago.

The win capped off an impressive day for Bennett's Jumbo-Visma team, coming hours after Wout van Aert won the opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine in France. 

"I'm happy that I could do it today," says Bennett. "I told the boys that I wanted to try and they did a wonderful job. 

"They told us on the radio halfway that Wout [Van Aert] won at the Dauphine. Wout is winning, everyone is winning everywhere and  I wanted to get in on the action.

"I waited until the last part of the race. I was worried it wasn't hard enough, so I asked the boys to make it as hard as they could. 

"All the boys positioned me all day. Then Vincenzo [Nibali] tried to attack and as soon as he was fading a little bit, I went. 

George Bennett.
George Bennett. Photo credit: Getty

"I was a bit scared on the downhill when it was half rain-half dry - that's always scary, because you don't know how hard you can push. I tried to take it as easy as I could, but still go fast.

"I only had two days left this season where I could ride for myself - today and Saturday - then I go back to being a domestique. 

"On our team, we have the best riders in the world, so I had an opportunity now, on this team, and I really had to take it." 

The Gran Piemonte was first contested in 1906 and Bennett is the first Kiwi to win the race. 

Fellow Kiwi Dion Smith failed to finish the race, after crashing with 20km remaining. 

Bennett will stay in Italy and lead Jumbo-Visma in this weekend's Il Lombardia, then join a strong line-up to contest the Tour de France, starting in Nice later this month.