Bennett: 'I just like it here'
Irishman Sam Bennett is quickly becoming a local favourite as the Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter kicked off the 55th Presidential Tour of Turkey with his eighth career stage win at the WorldTour race.
Bennett cannot seem to get enough of Turkey and neither can the hundreds of race fans that flocked to the finish line to surround the 28-year-old Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter after he claimed the 156.7-kilometre opening stage of the 55th Presidential Tour of Turkey in Tekirdağ on Tuesday.
“I am so happy taking the opener here in Turkey again,” said Bennett. “I really like this country and I think the country likes me as well.”
“I suppose confidence in what you have done and then you just get in the flow,” Bennett told Eurosport while standing seaside along the Marmara. “I just like it here.”
The Belgian-born Irishman was met at the podium by a throng of well-wishers, including one young artist who eagerly presented Bennett with a sketched portrait of the 2018 Giro d’Italia three-time stage winner.
“It’s really nice, he probably put a lot of time and effort in, so I gave him one of the jerseys as a thank you,” shared an appreciative Bennett. “It’s really nice to have that kind of support.”
Ample support is something Bennett will continue to need in Turkey with a startlist jam-packed with world-class sprinters, including Stage 1 runner-ups Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), as well as 2011 world champion and 30-time Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), who is reunited with longtime lead-out man Mark Renshaw after the Australian missed the start of the season after being struck by a motorist during a training ride in December.
“The guys did an amazing job today, they pulled the whole day and delivered me perfectly,” Bennett explained. “They take, as always, a huge part in today’s result. In the finale, I stayed on the wheel of the Deceuninck - Quick-Step guys and first I thought it might be difficult today, but then I kicked off my sprint and had the highest speed.”
Like ‘Cav’, Bennett is also rejoined by a familiar face with the re-signing of New Zealander Shane Archbold following the unexpected departure of Peter Kennaugh due to personal reasons. The 30-year-old Kiwi is just component out of a handful of riders that Bennett claims give Bora a fierce, yet fun sprint train in Turkey.
“We have a strong lead-out here,” claimed Bennett. “We have Erik [Baška], [Christoph] Pfingsten, Lukas [Pöstlberger], Shane [Archbold] — probably going to forget somebody here now and I better not. We have [Michael] Schwarzmann and Felix [Großschartner].
“Even off the bike it’s good to have these guys as well,” he continued. “It’s good banter.”