Nationality: New Zealander
Age: 27 (07/04/90)
Pro Since: 2011
Team: Team Lotto NL-Jumbo
Favourite Race: Tour of Colorado
George Bennett was born in Nelson, New Zealand in 1990. Unlike the other New Zealand World Tour riders George's pathway to professional road cycling didn't come via a track program. Instead he played rugby as a kid and only began riding as a way to keep fit for his activities on the rugby field. However it didn't take long before he quit the rugby and decided to focus solely on cycling.
In 2008, he represented New Zealand in the World MTB championships before turning his attention to the road. He spent a couple of seasons with French amateur teams before moving to America in 2011, securing a ride for the Trek-Livestrong development team. Strong performances in the New Zealand Cycle Classic (1st GC) and the Ronde de l'Isard (2nd GC) put him on the radar of a number of World Tour teams. He rode for Team Radioshack as a trainee in the Tours of Utah and Colorado before turning pro in 2012, signing a two-year deal with the US team and becoming one of the youngest members of the World Tour peloton at that time.
Unfortunately George's rookie year was interrupted due to a knee injury and he found it hard to build any momentum in the saddle. In contrast, 2013 began well with a strong showing at the Tour Down Under before he was selected to ride his first Grand Tour at the Giro d'Italia in May. However misfortune struck again, George became ill during the race and struggled physically. Although his debut Grand tour was a valuable learning experience, George was disappointed he couldn't show his strong early season form in any part of the race. He sat out the early part of the Summer to concentrate on getting healthy and bounced back to form in fine style with notable performances in the Tours of Utah & Colorado. He finished his season with another good showing, finishing 20th in the Tour of Beijing.
In 2014, George signed for Cannondale Pro Cycling and season highlights included another strong showing in the Tour of Utah where he finished 9th in the Overall GC. In August, George made his second start in a Grand Tour at the Vuelta a Espana and showed his talent as a climber on a number of the tough hillier stages.
In 2015, George joined Team Lotto NL and made a strong start to the season with a top 10 finish at the Tour Down Under. He was hoping to carry his early season form into the Giro d’Italia but unfortunately had to withdraw a couple of days before the start of the race due to low cortisol levels which were caused by his asthma medication. With a rejigged race schedule, George spent the summer preparing for the Vuelta and caught the eye with a number of impressive rides on the mountain stages of the three week stage race.
In 2016, George enjoyed a break through year in the saddle earning selection for milestone races including the Tour de France and Olympic Games in Rio. He also raced at the Vuelta riding in support of Steven Kruijswijk. However when his teammate crashed out of the race on stage 5, George inherited the leading role and rode impressively to finish 10th in the Overall GC. In doing so, George became the first Kiwi to finish inside the top 10 in a Grand Tour.All photography provided by Graham Watson and Team Lotto NL-Jumbo.
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