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Bennett poised to make NZ cycling history

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/05/2017

George Bennett is ready for the fight of his life in the final stage of the Tour of California as he seeks a slice of New Zealand road cycling history.

A blistering individual time trial on Saturday (NZT) in the sixth of seven stages has given LottoNL-Jumbo rider Bennett a lead of 35 seconds.

His time of 28 minutes 45 seconds on a flat course at Big Bear Lake was the fourth-fastest, 18sec slower than British stage winner Jonathan Dibben (Team Sky).

Importantly, he was more than 40sec faster than previous tour leader Rafal Majka of Poland, the rider who has kept Bennett in second place overall since stage two.

If Bennett can retain his lead, he will become the first Kiwi to win a World Tour stage race.

"I never thought I would be here. When I looked at the profile of the time trial course it was fast and furious," Bennett said.

"You just needed a lot of power today and that's not what I have.

"I don't know where it came from. I think I just went out there - are you familiar with the expression twisting a nut ... that's all I can think of about my performance.

"It gives me a lot of hope for the future and a lot of optimism and a lot of confidence."

The final stage is 125km from Mountain High in the San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles County and is mostly downhill, with three categorised climbs along the way to the finish in Pasadena.

He will lean heavily on his team-mates to protect him, with attacks likely to come thick and fast from elsewhere.

"This is full-gas racing tomorrow," he said.

"The boys have a big job. They have rode their hearts out for me all week."

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