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Sam Bennett at Critérium du Dauphinéwhere he’s taken a 2nd place and been in green for a day but says there is more to come from his sprint (Photo by Billy Ceusters, homepage photo by Elias Rom)

Sam Bennett has said when his tenure with Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale did not start with hoped-for wins, he felt like he had “failed” as his one job was to win races.

The Irishman, who finished 2nd on the opening stage at Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday also said as he was nothing without his sprint, he knew he had to get it back.

And, after four stage wins at the overall victory at Four Days of Dunkirk, he believes he sprint can get better, and is confident he can add more power to his initial kick at the finish. When it came to rating the start of his season, Bennett smiled and said he would give himself a four out of 10.

“The condition was good but my job is to win races and I didn’t. In my eyes I failed, even though I wasn’t far (off winning), it was just that tiny bit, that little bit (extra) that I needed,” he said.

“But, I mean, without it I’m nothing, so I have to have my sprint. But it’s getting better, it’s getting better.

“Condition-wise it’s coming good, especially when I get through this race, the condition should be exactly where I need it. And then the power is pretty good. Just that first kick… once I get that I’ll be good.”

Sam Bennett racing against the watch today on stage 4 of Critérium du Dauphiné from Saint-Germain-Laval to Neulise (Photo: Billy Ceusters)

Asked how the season had been so far with his new team, Bennett said: “It’s been super, it’s been a fantastic experience racing with everyone here at the team.

“They’ve been super supportive and calm. There was never big pressure put on me, which was quite nice, because they had the belief that it would come.

“It took longer than I would have liked. I would have liked to start the season (winning) just straight away. I just missed out on Provence,” he said, referring to just missing out on the final stage victory at Tour de la Provence in February, where he took a narrow 2nd place to Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel-Premier Tech).

“I had good condition but it just took a while to get that peak, peak power. And it’s start to come close now; it’s starting to get better and better. There’s still a little bit more to get.

“But so far it’s been amazing with everyone, with the staff and with the riders, the equipment, everything is super. I’m really happy here.”

Bennett won the green jersey and two stages of the Tour de France in 2020. And while he continued scoring repeated wins in 2021, while still a QuickStep rider, he became injured before the Tour de France that year and did not return to the race.

He then went back to Bora-hansgrohe on a team-year contract and though he won two stages at La Vuelta in 2022, his second stint win the German team did go as well as he hoped.

After a tricky season last year he left the team and joined Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale on a two-year contract at the start of this year. Though he raced smaller events in the first months of the season he just came up short of a win before the floodgates opened at Four Days of Dunkirk a couple of weeks ago.

Bennett may get another chance to sprint for a stage win tomorrow at the Dauphiné before the the harder climbing stages commence. However, his main goal at this race is improving his condition ahead of an expected return to the Tour, after a four-year absence.

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