George bennett rejoins the bunch after extended summer in new zealand skirt steak marinade lime

But even simple tasks like ducking down to the local bike shop for a yarn can sap energy, so bennett went into hibernation after most training sessions in order to keep himself fresh and to avoid another scenario like last year, where illness and fatigue curtailed his season.

"It is a bit weird being here now at this time of the year," said bennett, prior to departing for europe last week. "I’ve fully turned on the focus now and I almost feel guilty being here because I should be making the most of seeing people but I’m into the stage of the year where I’m doing massive sessions and just getting home and putting my feet up so I can do it again the next day.

"That is opposed to what I’d usually do in new zealand where I’m far more relaxed and it’s the build up phase so you can catch up with people after training."

Putting feet

Bennett clocked up massive k’s while in nelson. He said before putting his feet up at the end of the day, there were even a few occasions where he would finish a training ride by swinging by one of the club races hosted by the tasman wheelers.

He said the up and coming riders are always eager to test themselves against a world tour star, so it was hard work, especially with heavy legs.

"I did one a couple of weeks ago where I did 200km in the morning and then went to the club race. I just got absolutely put to the sword by two young kids. And the same again last saturday with a big day, heavy legs and I go up there and get smashed.

"I end up rolling home a bit beaten up but it’s actually awesome because it’s one of those environments where you don’t have to worry about performing, you really can just lay it out in the morning and still lift for race in the afternoon, and if you blow up halfway through it doesn’t matter."

Being here

Although his goals are much bigger this year, targeting general classification honours at the giro d’italia and vuelta a espana, as well as a top-10 finish at the road world championships, bennett said he has not made any significant changes to his approach as he gears up for his eighth year as a pro.

"I guess I’m more confident and more decisive in terms of having time off, and when I train, I’m training really, really hard. But it’s pretty much following a good recipe that has worked me in the past and trying to replicate that. Being a year older and a year stronger, you hope that’s the difference, but there’s nothing major or even minor that has changed."

Bennett received a rude welcome in his first race back in europe, on the gravel at stade bianche last weekend.Being here wearing long sleeves and gloves to combat the cold, bennett crossed the line 13min 50sec behind winner tiesj benoot. He was covered in mud from head to toe.

"In the next races coming up, normally I would have mini-goals for them. But I’m more sort of using them just as build-up and going into them probably quite tired from doing big k’s. I’m probably sacrificing shots at those races so you’re there for when the weight is on your shoulders. You give away a little bit so you are ready for when the pressure is on," he said.