Thu, Jan 13, 2022 10:00 AM

Bennett excited about a big year in cycling

George Bennett at the 2022 NZ Cycle Classic. Photo: RNZ

Staff Reporter

New Zealand cyclist George Bennett is excited about a packed year ahead with his new pro team, but his schedule won't include the Commonwealth Games.

After seven years with the Dutch Jumbo-Visma team, Bennett has moved to UAE Team Emirates.

The 31-year-old started 2022 with a fourth place finish in last week's New Zealand Cycle Classic in the Wairarapa.

"It (the tour) was exactly what I'd hoped for, I certainly suffered like hell on the first few days," Bennett said.

"I've done a lot of off-season training in the gym and some medium base work, but hadn't done any high power stuff so I came here and got a bit of a shock at the start, but started to feel okay the last couple of days."

"I'm still way off where I need to be before I hit Europe, but for the time of the year, I'm really happy and I got a lot out of the week."

Before heading back to Europe, Bennett will defend his national road title in Cambridge next month.

"I should be in a lot better nick by then (nationals), as it's still five weeks away.

Bennett will train in Nelson and Christchurch over the coming weeks to build up for the nationals and then it will be straight on a plane to the UAE.

He was looking forward to catching up with the rest of the UAE team, which included fellow Nelsonian Finn Fisher-Black, who also moved from Jumbo-Visma and two time defending Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia.

"It's been great so far I've only done one camp with them and met my trainer and I'm really excited about my programme."

Bennett had a lot he wanted to achieve in 2022 and felt good that he would get to make some of those decisions himself.

"I have a really nice split in my programme, 50 percent for myself and 50 percent as a helper for Pogacar.

"So I have goals I want to kick in both of those camps and while I can't say too much yet, it's very exciting."

The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in August was not likely to be one of those targets.

"Probably won't do the them (the Commonwealth Games), it's just hard to get that one past the pro team, but maybe the world champs in Australia in September, that would be nice, but we'll have to wait to see what the course is like."

Bennett has been a professional rider since 2011, winning the Tour of California in 2017.

He has competed in 14 Grand Tours.