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Sam Bennett is leaving Bora-hansgrohe and now Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale believes it can help the Irishman re-find winning ways (Photo: Zac

Just days after unveiling Sam Bennett as one of six new signings, Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale’s management have hailed him as a “world class” sprinter who has won huge races before and would do so again with the right “support”.

The team should have all the support that Bennett needs given the serious injection of cash brought into the set-up by new backer Decathlon.

However, the management figures have also conceded they have not had consistent success with a top sprinter since Jaan Kirsipuu rode for them, for seven seasons to 2006. Incidentally, the Estonian powerhouse who was the first big name rider that a young Bennett scalped in a sprint, on Rás Tailteann 2009 into Clara.

While having a big sprint name in their roster is very new for AG2R, general manager Vincent Lavenu says he firmly believes Bennett will find his winning groove again after a difficult few seasons.

“He is a world-class runner in terms of sprinting, and it’s something that we haven’t been able to do much since Jaan Kirsipuu,” said Lavenu, before quickly referencing another former rider, Jean-Patrick Nazon, who won the final stage of the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées in 2003.

“Sam is a boy who has already won big races several times and with attention, management, support, we can find a boy who wins sprints at the highest level.”

Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale sports director, Julien Jurdie, said he was relishing the thoughts of working with Ireland’s Bennett next year as he had never managed a top tier sprinter before now.

“I have been with the team for twenty years and I have never worked with a world-class sprinter like Sam,” Jurdie said. “It’s new for us, but it’s becoming essential to have someone who can compete with the best.”

Jurdie added putting a lead-out train around Bennett, settling him into the team and getting his confidence back up had all been “clearly identified” by as challenges.

“But it’s a great challenge,” he said. “From February, March, the team will have to be able to take it quickly to victory or not far from victory, because we know that the start of the season is very impactful on the mind.”

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