Imagine for a second what happens when a person in an ordinary job gets sick for a few weeks. They take a week or two off work and upon their return, they mind themselves, drink plenty of Lucozade and go to bed early after vegging out in front of the TV for the evening. They receive bucket loads of sympathy from their loved ones and take a month or two to recover. They may go for short walks during this time but nothing too strenuous that might seem to be overdoing it.
Now look at the reality of what happens to a Pro bike rider when they get sick. Instead of taking a month to recover and taking it easy, someone like for instance, Sam Bennett lines up at the Tour de France. One of the most gruelling sporting endeavours on the planet. If you speak to any pro rider one of the key elements to survival let alone competitiveness at the Tour is recovery. That is when you are starting from 100% fitness.
A regular person returning from illness wakes in the morning and thinks ‘I feel really tired and achy. I don’t know if I can manage a full day sitting in that big comfy chair behind the desk. Sam woke in the morning faced with prospect of riding stages across cobbles at breakneck speeds, stages over mountains so high that cars burn out clutches on the way up and stages so long that ordinary workers would want mileage and lunch money to even consider driving that distance. For over two weeks now he kept on getting up every morning, putting on his gear and lined up on the start line when any ordinary mortal would have just stayed in bed.
Today, it all caught up with him and he was forced to abandon. This he did, not in the way of mere mortals who pull the covers up and send the text ‘can’t make it in today, too sick’ but in the way of a warrior. He dragged his aching weary body out of bed. Pulled on his cycling kit and lined up at the start in the hope that a miracle of recovery might happen. The miracle did happen in a way as he made it through the first part of the stage but eventually the cumulative effect of starting the Tour with only half a tank of gas caught up.
Most Tour debutantes aim to last a week or possibly 10 days, that is when they are in the full of their health and at the peak of their fitness. Sam lasted 19 days !
Over two thirds of the peleton, some who have ridden many many Tours, have never had a top 10 finish on a stage. Sam on his debut whilst below par did have a top 10 finish on a stage.
These two morsels alone give the true indication of the direction that the career of Sam Bennett is headed. The mental strength and toughness that it took to survive for 19 days in that jungle of pain is the rubber stamp that seals his fate.
Since he was 12 years of age Sam Bennett has impressed me but never before like he has over the past 19 days.
Go Sam !