Sam Bennett said his maiden WorldTour victory of 2019 ‘can’t do any harm’ as he keeps one eye on a new contract.
The Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter beat the fastest riders in the world on stage seven of the inaugural UAE Tour, taking his first major win of the season.
Bennett’s contract with Bora expires at the end of 2019, and the Irishman has been vocal about his disappointment after missing out on Giro d’Italia selection.
Speaking after the stage, the 28-year-old said: “I think it’s one of the toughest fields here. There’s so many top guys. We’re only missing a handful. It’s a high standard.
“I think you could see my relief at the line. Of course I wanted to go to the Giro, but I respect the team’s decision.
“There’s other races for me to try and win. I want to take every opportunity as it comes and do the best I can.”
He added, laughing: “It can’t do any harm, it’s a contract year.”
Bennett was strong in the sprints at the UAE Tour, narrowly missing out on stage five as four men hit the line at the same time.
But he would not be denied on stage seven, utilising a 40km/h headwind to come out from behind Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) at the last moment.
The victory is Bennett’s second of the year, after the final stage of the Vuelta a San Juan last month, and his first WorldTour win of the season.
He said: “I had to use a good bit of energy to fight for the wheel, but I still had so much more in the final and I could ease up in the last 50 metres.
“It was great for the confidence, and I put myself under a lot of pressure in the last months to come out in good form at the start of the season.
“The last two races I’ve had a win, so I’m really happy with this.”
Bora-Hansgrohe won’t be taking Bennett to the Giro in 2019, even after he won three stages in the Italian Grand Tour last year.
Instead, German outfit Bora are taking their home sprinter Pascal Ackermann while Peter Sagan will lead the team at the Tour de France.
This leaves Bennett to ride the Vuelta a España.
Earlier this week he told Cycling Weekly “I’m not getting any younger and these are my best years, I want the opportunities.”
After his victory in the Middle East, Bennett added: “It’s good for when you put on the jersey, you know we’re going out to do something, it gives you more morale.”