George Bennett prefers flying under the radar as expectations grow on Tour

George Bennett has been forced out of the Tour de France with illness.

George Bennett has been forced out of the Tour de France with illness.

George Bennett is learning to deal with expectation.

"One minute you're in there and ripping it and next minute you're out of the top 10 and people are wondering what's going on," he said, having fallen down to 12th place at the Tour de France after stage 15.

But just 30 seconds separates the LottoNL-Jumbo rider and 10th place, and he said he remained "quietly optimistic" that he can make up the time in the final six stages and become the first Kiwi to finish inside the top 10.

Bennett chats to media after a stage.

Bennett chats to media after a stage.

"It is definitely achievable. 100 per cent achievable. I need things to go my way, I need people not to get in lucky breakaways and this little bug I've got can't develop into anything. But I'm quietly optimistic I can do it and I hope for everyone at home I can do it."

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After winning the Tour of California and emerging as an early Tour de France contender, all of a sudden everyone wants a piece of the man from Nelson.

Bennett is just 30 seconds off 10th place.

Bennett is just 30 seconds off 10th place.

But that is starting to take its toll on the 27-year-old.

"It would have been really helpful to have done this before and to have been in this situation but suddenly you're in the spotlight and it's weird and something you thought you'd look forward to but in reality I'd much go under the radar and be able to do a bike race and not the other stuff that comes with it.

"It's the Tour so you're always going to have one or two media interviews but not a media scrum outside your bus when you walk out. That comes naturally to some people but it wasn't something I looked forward to, especially with this stupid water bottle penalty where everyone is looking for a story and trying to put words in your mouth about the rules being rigged for the French."

To quell the expectation, Bennett has restricted his media commitments with the travelling scribes to a short window outside the team bus post-race. He is also trying his hardest to switch off from the distractions of social media.

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"It's stuff that I never really thought of could drain from you but it does. It's just little things, getting rid of Twitter from your phone because it just adds to everything and you start reading these articles."

Bennett said he felt the weight of expectation the most when he slipped outside the top 10 after the short 101km stage from Saint-Girons to Foix. But he's sought advice from others, including former Olympic Games cyclist Robin Reid, who is a good friend and long-time mentor of Bennett's. The message from everyone seems to be the same; that this won't be his last chance to ride for history.​

"I hadn't been feeling too much pressure and suddenly I felt the expectation. I had a good talk to Robin Reid and a few other guys and they put into into perspective and now I'm enjoying it again, it's just a bike race and I'm going to give it absolutely everything.

"If I get there it's awesome and if I don't, well, it's not my last chance at the Tour de France.

"At this stage you can go crazy about focussing on the top 10 and lose track of the process so I'm just trying to do the best bike race I can every day and see what naturally happens. If I end up 11th it's not a bad result but it seems to different to 10th."

Not feeling 100 per cent on stage 15, Bennett said the second rest day could not have come at a more perfect time.

"I didn't feel that good when I woke up. I had a sore throat, a headache, a bit of the sweats. I've been feeling s**thouse all day and they went full gas and I had to dig pretty deep but I was there with the 10 best again. That's great that I can be there with the best but I feel the rest day came at absolutely the best time.

"I don't think I'm sick or anything, I think I just picked up a cold and I think I can shake it in the rest day and be back into it on the Alps."

 - Stuff


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