Nelson cyclist George Bennett is enjoying “relaxing and drinking beer and catching up with his family and mates”, after another tough season on the pro tour that started and ended well but turned ugly in between.
The 25-year-old Lotto NL Jumbo rider recorded his best results as a pro cyclist this season with a fourth placing on a stage in the Vuelta Espana and a top 10 finish in the Tour Down Under.
But George also had to endure illness and injury and “the toughest two weeks of my career”, after missing a start in the Giro Italia when drug tests showed he had low cortisol levels.
“It started pretty good in January in the Tour Down Under when I got my first Pro Tour points, but then I was sick for the first race in Europe and had the knee injury the next week,” George says. “I got back on track before the Giro but had all the drama there with tests showing I had low cortisol levels. Then I had a few altitude camps and came away with a fourth and couple of top 15 places in the Vuelta (Espana). I also raced well in the Lombardi, so overall I feel I made a big step up this year.”
George attributes his improvement to the coaching staff on his new team, saying a change in diet and training has worked wonders.
“They were very scientific in their approach and made some big changes to my nutrition and training. My role in the team also changed and I got a few chances myself – I was also being used later in the races and not just getting bottled early.
“I had a lot more responsibility but that made me press harder. I really enjoyed it.”
George is optimistic that he will continue to improve next season, especially if he can “figure out” what’s causing a painful, reoccurring stitch that is making his life hell.
“I had explorative surgery at the end of the season but they still don’t know why it’s happening. It comes on during high intensity riding and it can be so bad I get light-headed from the pain – it’s frustrating, but when I figure it out I’ll be a new rider.”
George will be in Nelson until January when he heads across the Tasman for the Tour Down Under.