New Zealand cyclist George Bennett leads Tour of California with one stage remaining

George Bennett leads the Tour of California with one stage to go.

George Bennett leads the Tour of California with one stage to go.

George Bennett has roared into the overall lead of the Tour of California with one stage to go, and sits on the verge of becoming the first Kiwi cyclist to win a World Tour event.

English cyclist Jon Dibben won the sixth stage on Friday (Saturday NZT), but New Zealander Bennett surged past Rafal Majka to take the overall lead.

The Tour of California is an established event on the cycling circuit but this is the first year it has been part of the UCI World Tour.

Dibben covered the 15-mile (24km) time trial course around Big Bear Lake in 28 minutes, 27 seconds, then sat back while the overall contenders took their shot at the race lead.

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Stage five winner Andrew Talansky needed to pull back 44 seconds on Majka, and he stopped the clock 16 seconds back of Dibben in third place.

Bennett started four minutes later and roared over the course in a time of 28:45 minutes, sending him into the lead with Majka the only rider left on the course.

His disappointing time of 29:26 dropped him 35 seconds behind Team Lotto NL-Jumbo's Bennett into second overall.

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"I'm the most surprised guy that watched the time trial or who was part of the event today," Bennett said at his press conference.

"I never thought I would be here. When I looked at the profile of the time trial course it was fast and furious. You just needed a lot of power today and that's not what I have.

"I don't now where it came from. I think just went out there – are you familiar with the expression twisting a nut … that's all I can think of about my performance.

"It gives me a lot of hope for the future and a lot of optimism and a lot of confidence."

The final stage Saturday (Sunday NZT) takes riders 77 miles (124km) through the San Gabriel Mountains into Pasadena.

 - AP


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