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'It'd be a shame to have this career and have never gone to the Olympics'

Sam Bennett says he’ll make a decision later on in 2021.

IRELAND CYCLING STAR Sam Bennett says he’s unsure about whether or not he will participate at the Olympics as he prepares to face into the 2021 season.

1975279 Irish cycling star Sam Bennett. Source: Sportsfile

On reflection, he regrets not racing at the 2012 Games. Paris 2024 is another Olympic event that intrigues him as he believes the course will be suited to elite sprinters like him.

He’s 30 now however, and worries that the next Olympic cycle could be beyond him.

“You never know where you’re going to be in another three years,” he tells the media on a video call.

That leaves him with the option of pursuing the Tokyo Olympics later this year. But that might not fit in so neatly with his plans under Covid-19 conditions.

Bennett is a household name after making history at last year’s Tour de France. The nation was gripped as he stormed to victory on the Champs-Elysees and secured the green jersey on the final stage.

A career high-point for the Carrick-on-Suir native, he became the first Irishman to win a major jersey at one of the three Grand Tours since Sean Kelly won green at the Tour for the fourth and final time in 1989.

In addition to his green jersey exploits, Bennett also claimed two stage victories during that tour. He quickly followed it up with a stage victory at the Vuelta a España in October.

Seeking out Olympic glory, with all this momentum in tow, seems like the next logical step for a cyclist of his talent. But Bennett won’t make any decisions about that until further on in the year.

“I haven’t thought about it yet. I have my first block of the season to really target first, hoping that goes ahead of course. And then it’s just something I need to sit down with Cycling Ireland and discuss what they’re looking [to get] from me and the team.

“We only have a three-man team there so it’s not that big anyway. There’s a lot of things to consider, I think it’s only a week after the Tour de France or maybe just a bit more. To recover, with that sort of tour, you have to come out of it in flying form. You can’t be over the limit.

“And then you have so much travel, the change in time zones. Sometimes, even if the humidity and heat is a little bit different, it can affect the body. So, it’s a difficult task and this year’s tour is suited to me more than last year’s tour.

“It is a really tough one but I need to sit down and know what the general outcome that Cycling Ireland are looking for.

“I think on a good day, with great legs, yeah it’s something I could do. But it’s a very hard one.”

sam-bennett-celebrates-winning-the-green-jersey Bennett enjoyed a lot of success in 2020. Source: Papon Bernard/INPHO

The 2020 season was an unusually long one for Bennett. Due to the interruption of Covid-19, it effectively ran from January to November which in turn, lead to Bennett covering big distances.

He clocked almost 12,000km in competitive racing, with his overall tally coming to 30,000km after accounting for his training output.

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Uncertainty about when the season was going to restart prompted him to simply continue with his sessions and await further instruction.

There’s certainly a physical toll that comes with that kind of colossal mileage, but Bennett says the psychological impact is more worthy of attention.

“I think mental fatigue is the biggest thing a lot of people don’t think about. I really discovered more about myself doing two Grand tours back-to-back.

“I found that actually once I pushed the body after the fourth day, it just seemed to open up and get back into the rhythm and recognise what was happening.

“My peak power kind of died a little bit but I was more like a diesel, I could keep going. And then there was pressure at the end of races, so I could use more power. But the main thing is the mental fatigue.

“I would have liked to have had a lot more time off in the off-season because even now, I’m fine, but I’m just afraid [that] a couple of months into the season, my head falls off. I don’t see that happening but it’s just a fear and I always like to play a bit on the safe side.”

Bennett is currently at a training camp in Altea with his team, Deceuninck-QuickStep. New recruit, and British cycling superstar, Mark Cavendish is also at the camp putting in the grind before the season gets underway.

Cavendish, who won the green jersey at the 2011 Tour de France, signed for the team last month after his exit from Bahrain-McLaren.

As a fellow sprint specialist, Bennett is thrilled to have the cycling veteran on his squad.

“We bumped shoulders a few times,” Bennett laughs.

“He’s a good lad and he’s here at the camp as well. I’m happy to see him get another contract. If he finished his career the way they were going to last year, I think for the rider and what he’s done in the sport, it would have been a disgrace.

“He’s one of the best sprinters of all time and I think he deserves a proper send-off. If he wants another contract, so be it. He seems to be building up quite well again and I’d say he still has a few more wins in him.

“I’d like to see him have a bit more success before he decides to retire.”

Sam Bennett was speaking at the launch of NOW TV dublinbikes which are on the streets of the capital from today. The streaming service is the new sponsor of dublinbikes.

A new user friendly dublinbikes App was also launched today.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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