The international peloton of professional riders consists of a few hundred cyclists that enjoy climbing over mountains and whizzing through picturesque villages. Many of the riders are well-known to the general public, but there are plenty of names that are still worth watching despite a lack of media attention. New Zealander George Bennet the 28-year-old who rides for the Lotto NL-Jumbo team, is one to watch when the climbing starts.

For a long time, the team formerly know as Rabobank had a considerable budget to attract big-name riders. Rabobank withdrew its sponsorship after a doping scandal, however, and the budgets shrank for the team, which soon became Belkin and then Lotto-NL Jumbo. The team developed a new strategy of focussing on lesser-known riders with potential. That seems to have worked.

Emerging talent

The team has a seriously talented sprinter in Dylan Groenenwegen. Enrico Battaglin also won a stage in this year’s Giro, and Primoz Roglic is going from strength to strength. Although he has received little media attention, George Bennett seems to be slowly coming out of the shadows as a GC contender in Grand Tours. He finished a very respectable 8th overall in this year’s Giro d’Italia, just ahead of Tom Dumoulin‘s classy domestique Sam Oomen.

George Bennett during the Tour of the Alps. Photo: Cor Vos

Breakthrough

Bennett’s Giro result shows that he can be among the major contenders during mountain stages. His breakthrough was in 2016 when he ended the Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) in the top 10, 14 minutes behind overall winner Nairo Quintana. He also finished ahead of big names such as Michele Scarponi and Alexandro Valverde.

Since then Bennett has been slowly improving, and in 2017 he finished in the top 10 of the minor stage races in Abu Dhabi and the Tour of Catalonia, as well as winning the Tour of California. The Tour de France and Vuelta both went less well last year; he failed to finish both races. He appears to have learned from that experience, though, and we think there’s a lot more to come following his top 10 in the Giro. Earlier in the season he was ninth in the Tirreno Adriatico, fifth in the Tour of California, and fifth in the Tour of the Alps.

He seems well on the way to a podium spot in future. He’s (logically) not in the team’s selection for the Tour de France, but perhaps the Vuelta? Keep an eye on this Kiwi in the Dutch team.