After a rocky couple of seasons during his time with BORA - hansgrohe, Irish sprint ace Sam Bennett is hoping a change of scenery and a move to the Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team can reignite his career at the top level.
"I had sky-high ambitions, but I far from achieved them. It's actually that simple. There were countless moments when I was close and seemed to be getting there again, but then again it just fell in the wrong direction," Bennett looks back at his 2023 openly and honestly in conversation with In de Leiderstrui. "Fortunately, I now have more knowledge about what exactly I need to improve on. I'm old, but not too old. I still have plenty to show for it. Moreover, I am confident that I can compete with the very best again."
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Part of the elite group of riders to have taken stage wins at all three Grand Tours, Bennett was once the most feared sprinter in the peloton. Also a former points classification winner at the Tour de France, the 33-year-old is keen to return to the race next summer. "I would like to return there after three years of absence, with the aim of winning as many stages as possible. It's quite a clear idea," he assesses.
"The last time I competed, I stood on the Champs-Élysées in Paris with the green jersey around my shoulders. So I have really cool memories of that," continues Bennett. "It was really sad that I wasn't there for the last three years. It is now up to me to prove myself and show that I can still do it. I am prepared to seize every opportunity that presents itself with both hands."
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Bennett knows though, that an improvement in his form will be needed first. "It is not so much the outside world that increases the pressure. I actually only do that myself. I obviously have to leave a good first impression with my new team. That gives them confidence, but also myself," he explains. "It has to do with so many things. In a way that pressure also builds up. Fortunately, I have always dealt with this well in my career. The pressure actually also makes you work harder, which of course can only benefit me."
"I should actually be standing here with a walker or walker, 'eh'," he concludes with a laugh. "Joking aside, I think I also like the role of mentor in the group. Yet I am someone who tends to stay more in the background in large groups. However, if it is 1-on-1, I am happy to help anyone who I think I can improve in certain areas. I think I have decent analytical skills, so in that context it should be fine. I just feel 22 and not 33 at all. That's a strange idea.