By Gregor Brown
After sprinting to third place on today's Giro d'Italia stage to Messina, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) explained how he pores over YouTube clips of past greats like Robbie McEwen to help him improve.
The 26-year-old Irishman joked that he is not pulling out "How to Sprint 101" books over the winter, but refreshes himself with internet clips.
In the past, before turning professional, he would examine any video footage that he could find of the Tour de France and Australia's best-ever sprinter.
"I used to watch a lot of Robbie McEwen," Bennett said. "I'd replay all of his sprints. Why him? Because he could do it without a train. I like that; I like the confidence he had.
"I'd watch the sprint finals of the Tour, rerun them and rerun them, to see where the guys came from and just watch how they flow through the bunch and look at how they carried themselves: how they show their body language, how they ride, how they switch when it comes to a sprint."
Thoughts of Bennett sitting at his home base in Monaco, next to a window overlooking the Côte d'Azur on a winter's night, and flipping the pages of sprint books come to mind.
"In the off-season, OK, I do watch those videos, but I don't pull out books and study! I watch YouTube videos, and when I was younger I used to do so much of that."
Watch: Giro d'Italia stage five highlights
Bennett stood sweaty in his black and white Bora skinsuit next to the team bus in Messina. He praised the work of his team to deliver him to third place, especially his final lead-out men Lukas Pöstlberger, who won stage one, and Rüdiger Selig.
Despite taking his best ever result in a Grand Tour stage, Bennett looked slightly disappointed with his performance, having fallen ill at the start of the race and struggled to survive over the last few days.
"The guys did a super job to have that much commitment and that must trust in me even after being sick. It's great to have and gives me confidence as well," Bennett said.
"I don't feel 100% yet, just lacking that little bit of top end, but it's coming back. I was really suffering at the start of the stage where I shouldn't be. I'm not fully there but it's coming."
Bennett feels that he is now ready to beat the top established sprinters like André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), winner of stage two, in Grand Tours. That is thanks to the investment the team made over the winter with the arrival of Specialized bikes (along with world champion Peter Sagan) and a new team structure.
"I hadn't had a lot go right for me in the last few years, now everything is going really well in the team. A lot has changed, the backing has changed, the support and structure, and I can get the most out of myself whereas before I was killing myself and not getting the results.
"Now, with the communication in the team, people coming from different angles with training and equipment, it's all coming together and it's really working well. Everything's starting to come together. I was just unlucky to get sick."
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