By Gregor Brown
Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) enjoys going into the smaller as the sprint favourite because he says it will make him a better rider for the upcoming 2018 season and Grand Tours.
The Irish cyclist won the first stage of the Tour of Turkey on Tuesday, and hopes that the responsibility of being favourite should stand him in good stead when he returns to the Grand Tours with Bora-Hansgrohe in 2018.
"You can't buy experience like this," Sam Bennett told Cycling Weekly. "And the more you can get the better it'll be for the future."
Bennett sat relaxed in a folding chair shaded by a parked van before the opening stage. With only four top teams in the newly-promoted WorldTour race, the 26-year-old stands out as the star sprinter. Others in Turkey include Belgian Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo).
Peter Sagan and other stars fill the Bora-Hansgrohe ranks so Bennett knows how valuable this experience in his final race of 2017 can be.
"I do know that there's more pressure as one of the favourites, something that I have to deal with. Hopefully, it doesn't crack me under pressure, but I don't think it would," Bennett added.
"It's just that you have to have your team make the race and people are going to be judging there sprint off of you. You are the point of reference, not other bigger riders.
"Sometimes, I find it easier with other bigger riders and you have to come around them and you have to make the sprint. If you go too long, they go around you. If you go too late, they are already past you. It's hard to judge."
Bennett judged the sprint at the end of stage one from Alanya along the Mediterranean Sea to perfection. He came off of Shane Archbold's wheel and lifted his arms victoriously in Kemer, one week after he tasted victory at the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro.
"I didn't expect to have good condition. I got the win last week, and it was an important one given it was on German soil for our German sponsor and it was the last German race of the year."
Bennett has ridden German team's wave into the WorldTour. It was known as Argon 18 and NetApp and depended on wildcard invitations to the Grand Tours. Now, it has guaranteed starts, but Bennett needs to earn his spot on the team roster in races like the Giro d'Italia with Peter Sagan focusing on the Tour de France's stages and green jersey.
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