By Joseph Romanos
George Bennett has a particularly tough job ahead of him in the men’s cycling road race on Saturday.
Bennett, 26, is the only New Zealander in the race and will have to contend with the team racing of some of the leading cycling nations, always a difficult assignment.
He seemed upbeat when talking to the media this week, and is hoping to springboard from his strong showing in the Tour de France.
It was his first Tour de France and, riding for Lotto NL-Jumbo, he finished 53rd. Bennett is no stranger to the major tours, having ridden the Spanish and Italian tours twice each.
“It can go one of two ways when you finish a major tour,” he said. “You can either be on your knees or it can be the best three weeks of training. I’ve had both.”
Bennett used more colourful language, but indicated to the media in attendance that he had felt drained by the time he arrived in Paris at the end of the Tour de France. “The Tour is a circus – it’s three weeks of the biggest stress you’ve seen.”
He said he’d bounced back after a good performance last month in a race at San Sebastian, in northern Spain, and was now really looking forward to his Olympic ride.
“The moment I went across the finish line in Paris, my mind clicked over to Rio.”
New Zealand has never won a medal in the men’s road race, though oddly enough we have produced a third place-getter. In Munich in 1972, Bruce Biddle rode valiantly and crossed the finish line fourth in a really tight finish.
When a Spaniard was disqualified after failing a drugs test, Biddle was promoted to third. But he was not awarded a medal because he had not undergone a post-race drugs test. He had, in fact, offered to do a test, but had been waved away, so he must be a strong contender for the unluckiest non-medallist in Olympic history.
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