Sam Bennett has defended his actions that saw him relegated from the stage nine victory at the Vuelta a España, saying those within cycling will understand what was going on and that the incident wasn’t as bad as it looks.
The Irishman had time to sit up and celebrate after winning the bunch sprint into Aguilar de Campoo, but was relegated after commissaires reviewed helicopter footage of him barging Trek-Segafredo rider Emils Liepins twice, promoting Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) to the stage victory.
“I’d prefer to keep it all in-house, I just explained to them why I did it, for the safety of myself, to protect myself in against the barriers and the safety of the riders behind,” Bennett told ITV of his discussion with the race jury after stage nine yesterday.
“It was really strange because the Trek rider came up to me at the line and he was okay with everything, and then all of a sudden everything was changed. But you know, we’ll keep it in-house and we have another sprint today and we’ll give it a go.”
The Deceuninck – Quick-Step sprinter was keen to draw a line under the incident but said that it looked much worse than it was.
“I understand that people are trying to protect the image of the sport. I can see how it looks but anybody in cycling will understand what’s happening and I promise you it isn’t as bad as it looks. I’ve just got to focus on today and we’ll deal with the rest behind closed doors,” Bennett explained.
The fact the UCI decision to relegate Bennett took 26 minutes was met with disdain after the stage yesterday, with the Irishman asked how the system for reviewing race incidents can be improved.
“I think that everything needs to be considered, you can’t just take one clip and have all of the information and all angles covered because you can have some trickery with the cameras as well,” Bennett suggested. “For instance, you don’t see how far the barriers come out with the legs and everything, there’s a lot going on. And to me, giving an opinion on something, on such a short little bit. I just want to focus on today and carry on racing my bike.”
As Bennett left the mixed zone another reporter asked Bennett what happened with Liepins in the aftermath of the barging.
“We were okay on the line, nothing wrong, nothing happened,” Bennett said before riding off to the start line.