After a 'frustrating' 2022, Sam Bennett targets green at the Tour de France again

Irish Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter laments missed opportunities in 2022 due to injuries and illness, but will try again next year

Sam Bennett
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sam Bennett is in a melancholic mood. The Irish sprinter is talking about his 2022 season, one that he describes as "one of the most frustrating years of my career".

Despite having won three WorldTour sprints this year, including two back-to-back at the Vuelta a España which saw him briefly wear the green jersey, Bennett appears wistful. This is the lot of a top sprinter who has had two consecutive seasons affected by injury, preventing him from being at his top level.

""I think that was probably one of the most frustrating years of my career because it was there for me, and I couldn't make use of it," he tells the assembled media over Zoom for the Bora-Hansgrohe press day. "I think it was a frustrating year but, in the end, I got back up and running and I'm motivated for next season.

"I think the most frustrating thing about this season was I had this amazing opportunity with this team with teammates, equipment, the whole structure around me, and I couldn't be at my best to make use of it.

Despite this, the disappointment, Bennett is clear that he made the right choice leaving Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl and returning to Bora-Hansgrohe.

"It was fantastic to be back in the team. I'm really happy with my decision and the support the guys gave. It was incredible," he says.

"It comes with the job [disappointment], you have to be mentally resilient. I have a strong personality even though I have a softer demeanour, I just knew I had to get back to my normal self. My teammates never gave up on me, they thought once I was back I'd be really successful. It's the belief my team continued to show in me when I wasn't at my best helped. 

"With sport, you always have ups and downs, it's part of it. When you're at a high, you forget how hard you had to work to get there. When things are going bad it seems a bit harder, but everything is back on track now. "

Sam Bennett

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bora strengthened their sprint train specifically for the Irishman, bringing in Ryan Mullen, Danny van Poppel and Shane Archbold to support him; he is now hoping that this can help him come good in 2023.

The main thing about this year is I finished good," he says. "Starting back with everybody else you're playing catch up and now it feels like a normal year again, because I had my offseason building up, the team camp everything's right and well. I'm just back in the normal rhythm.

"Last year, I didn't have the best pre-season and when I look back at UAE it's a bloody miracle that I got the podium there. I had nothing done, like really nothing done, and managed to get them. So, I can't really compare the physical side because they're just totally different levels.

"But everything's really on track now. It's about keeping it going really, just don't overthink it, because I've won before – it's just about going through the process of making sure I'm good, fit, healthy. And the team is here surrounding me and giving me the support, and the results will come."

His 2022 began in an encouraging way, with Bennett achieving two podium spots at the UAE Tour, but he didn't win until Eschborn-Frankfurt in May. He then failed to make the Tour de France for the second year in a row, and despite his two stage wins at the Vuelta, that ended with the sprinter going home with Covid.

"I was in denial," Bennett says about not being picked for the Tour. "I believed I was going. I probably would've gotten better as the race went on. But if I was a team manager and I looked at the results and looked at the racing, I'd probably do the same thing. It's understandable.

"The main thing is that when I am going good the opportunity is there to take. In the end, it might have been the best decision this year because I got two stage wins in the Vuelta and was chasing green before I got sick. I was back to my old self.

"It's sport. You're going to have moments where you're disappointed, but you just keep going. It's just bike racing."

Sam Bennett

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As for next year, Bennett is focused on winning sprints at the Tour. Bora have a surplus of options at next year's race, with Giro d'Italia champion Jai Hindley and Aleksandr Vlasov vying for general classification spots. Add riders like Max Schachmann, Lennard Kämna and Sergio Higuita, and the squad looks half full already.

However, Bennett is aiming for the green jersey. Now it has been prised off the shoulders of Peter Sagan, it has had three different winners, including the Irishman. Wout van Aert looks like the man to beat, though.

"I think it's possible. I did it before and there's no reason why I can't do it again," he says of his chances of green. "Everything seems to be coming back into place. I think I struggled getting some of my peak power this season, but it seems to just come when I build up my engine and do bigger endurance rides and train more like a Classics rider.

"It's weird – when I don't do specific sprint work and I just do normal training and get fit the power comes. I don't know why that is. When it was sprint work it just kind of stayed the same.

"So yeah, I think it's possible. There are eight sprints. Out of a possible eight sprints some might be hillier towards the end and trying to get there it's going to be hard, but I think I have to believe it as well. I wouldn't be the rider I am today if I didn't believe that I was able to do it. And it's not like I'm going into unknown territory where I didn't do it before I've done it. So why not?"

To get to that shape, Bennett is hoping for an uninterrupted start to the season for the first time since 2019, given the pandemic and then his injury troubles.

"It's normally pretty similar to what I normally do like," he explains. "I start in Argentina, then UAE, Paris-Nice, and then the Classics that I can get up in like Milan-San Remo, De Panne, Gent-Wevelgem.

"I think some of the main targets then will be Tour de France again. I'd like to do two Grand Tours back-to-back to rebuild the engine again. But maybe ask me that on the second rest day in the Tour – I might have a different answer."

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.