Ireland's Sam Bennett (file pic). Anne-Christine POUJOULAT

'I'm fully Irish, don't worry' - Sam Bennett

The 29-year-old cyclist also spoke about the impact the Tour de France’s taxing schedule was having.

SAM BENNETT HAS declared: “I’m fully Irish, don’t worry.”

The 29-year-old cyclist, who is currently enjoying a Tour de France to remember, was born in Belgium but grew up in Ireland.

There was considerable consternation recently, when Bradley Wiggins exclaimed: “We can almost consider him British.”

However, Bennett left no ambiguity as to how he identifies when speaking on Today with Claire Byrne.

“I came back before I started primary school in Carrick-on-Suir, went to college in Carrick,” he explained.

“I grew up in Ireland and both my parents are Irish, so I’m fully Irish, don’t worry.”

Bennett also hailed the “fantastic support” he has received in light of his Tour de France exploits.

There’s a huge bit of expectation and I never knew it would add to the pressure but at the same time, it’s lovely to be getting the support, I really appreciate it.”

And he also admitted that the gruelling schedule of the competition was having an impact on him.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty tired. I’m only human. It has been one of the harder grand tours I’ve ever done. Speaking in the bunch, it has been one of the hardest anyone has done. It has been ‘go’ since Nice. 

“Normally we might get some days where the pace might be a little bit lower, it has been incredibly hard racing. I think everyone is in the same position. 

“But you get into a rhythm and the body just keeps going. At some stages, the head will give up 100 times before the body does. So it is just about keeping going.

“It’s hard but you just have to keep going. It is just a mental game at this stage.”

Despite the inevitable fatigue, Bennett says he is fully focused for a big week ahead.

“I’m in a very strong position. We have some very hard stages coming up. I still have to look at where the intermediate sprints are. 

“Some of the harder mountain top finishes, Peter [Sagan] won’t be able to get there for the points, but neither will I. He has won it seven times so he knows how to win this jersey. He is a tough competitor. It is looking good but it is going to be a tough one in the last week, it’s going to pile on — the pressure.

“I’m just trying to take it one day at a time. My first target was today. Now I know I have some hard days, so I will just take it day by day. I know I have six stages left so I’m trying to break it down. 

“One of those days is a time-trial and the last is the Champs-Élysées, so it’s a little bit of an easier stage at the beginning. So then it’s really only four stages. 

“I’m breaking it down as much as I can so I can approach it better. But I know the first two days back are going to be extremely hard. It is going to be about how long you can hurt for and keep going.”

You can listen to the full interview here.

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