Our Paris correspondent spent Sunday evening enjoying a little too much champagne on the Champs Élysées. As the final riders crossed the finish line, we helped him over the barriers and sent him off in search of the Jumbo Visma bus to present the Rouleur Tour de France 2019 Supreme Banana, George Bennett, with a bunch of five. And it didn’t go as badly as you might imagine…
The full audio recording of the interview is provided below for your listening enjoyment. We can only apologise for the slurring.
Rouleur: George Bennett, congratulations. You’re the Supreme Banana of the Tour de France.
George Bennett: Does that mean the biggest cockup of the Tour?
No, no. It means you’re the most unsung hero. The rider who has contributed the most, who has not gotten enough credit for the work that they’ve put in. Apart from the fact that you had the cricket two weeks ago, which you wore well… Can I get a quick picture of you with this bunch of bananas and then we’ll talk, if that’s okay? I know that this is… you’ve had a hard three weeks. You can either keep them or give them back to me.
We have a bus full of bananas so, tell you what, I’d hate to see them wasted.
I just want to ask, would you say this is as good as winning a stage of the Tour de France?
As in me personally winning a stage of the Tour de France?
Would you say that winning Rouleur’s Supreme Banana of the Tour is as good, equal to, or if not better than winning a stage of the Tour de France?
Well I’ve never won a stage so I can only can only assume it’s equal to. I’ve never won a stage so I don’t know how that feels but it feels pretty good to get the Rouleur supreme banana award.
But you did also win a stage of the Tour de France, this year, did you not? [The Team Time Trial in Brussels]
Oh yeah, I kinda did. I think this feels better because I’m about to go slam some beers and that’s just exciting.
How has your three weeks been? This is one of the few teams to have come away with something really impressive.
To sum it up in a word is impossible. It’s been sometimes so amazing and then it’s just been frustrating as hell and then tiring as hell. I’ve had some really shit, shit moments…
What were the shit moments? Not that I want you to relive them but…
The debacle with the bottles [On stage 10, Bennett went back to the team car for bottles just as the race split apart in crosswinds, costing him his position and more than 9 minutes overall]. When I was sitting in fourth. I came here on working duty but I knew I was flying and I knew I could be with the best. We just focussed everything on Stevie for the GC, and I knew that was the case, but it was still frustrating for it to go that way.
At the time you couldn’t dwell on it… you couldn’t be upset about it because you weren’t there for GC but it also would have been nice to go into the rest day sitting in, I guess, what would have been second, if I’d stayed where Stevie was.
So that was the frustrating moment, but I got over that and was good in the mountains and that was another ‘up’ moment, being there in the mountains and rocking it and showing I could be there with the best five or six guys. Then obviously the Galibier stage was a shocker. I just dropped myself twice and that basically put an end to any real form I had.
And that was the point when it became a chore?
We still had to suck it up for two days. I guess it was back up again on stage 20 when we re-took the podium. So it was up and down and all over the shop. I’m kinda just ready to go.
How do you deal with all of that, psychologically. It seems like you’re good at dealing with it?
I don’t pay attention to it, too much. I try not to, but I guess there is a level of subconscious that wears you down over three weeks. As much as you ignore it or you pretend you’re not affected by it and chuck your earphones in, and listen to a podcast or read a book or whatever, and never be alone with your thoughts for three weeks… eventually it kind of… Now I do feel like I’m finished now. I’m done. I’m over it.
Are you proud of what you as an individual have achieved or do you have regrets? Apart from the crosswinds stuff.
This is a weird thing with me: I always feel like there’s a lot more to give without the side-stitch thing. I always feel until I’ve solved that I can’t give everything, physically in my body. It’s really frustrating. I am proud of moments but there’s a lot I could have done better – staying on my bike for one.
There’s not many riders who stayed on their bike for the whole three weeks.
It’s been alright for crashes, actually. I’m probably more proud of the team, how we operated as a team. How we managed GC and sprint goals, how everybody chipped in. There was no dead weight. Everyone was on board. I was proud of that, but as for my personal performance there was definitely some really good moments but it wasn’t my finest.
It seemed to me that you as an individual, and maybe it’s not for me to say this, but that you showed even more what your potential is and you can go into your next Grand Tour, whichever that ends up being, with optimism.
There is a sense of that but I guess this is just part of being an athlete. Until you win the thing you always want more, you know? It’s also a fault. I should also just enjoy the fact that I’m in Paris.
And you’ve got a rider on the podium for the first time in this team’s [history]. You and Laurens De Plus and Steven Kruijswijk have put a rider on the podium. Isn’t that huge?
Yeah, that is huge. I think I’ll probably get home next week, and I’ll have a few beers and I’ll sit around and I’ll play my guitar and realise “oh shit, that’s pretty awesome”. But right now it’s just, we only did it yesterday, and then you’re so tired, for it to soak in. We got here and there was crazy travels – two bus rides and a plane – and then the first thing I’m doing is pulling full gas on the Champs. As I was saying, I’m sure I’ll sit down next week and be like “that’s what we did”.
I think it’s really big for the Dutch guys to have a Dutch rider on the podium for a Dutch team. I think it’s blowing up in Holland but I kind of don’t really tune into the cycling world – intentionally – while I’m in a race because of I get the overload.
In New Zealand we’ve got a lot of other sport going on at the moment. You [only] make the news if you fall off, that’s generally the rule of thumb. So that was the first time New Zealanders knew about the Tour de France. It actually has been really good. There’s been great support from a lot of Kiwis. I’m just ready to reset and go to the next one.
Is the next one the Vuelta?
Well, San Sebastian but the next goal is the Vuelta.
And are you going to be leading the team at the Vuelta?
Originally that was the plan, but now I know Roglic and Stevie…
Has this team got room for you and your ambitions?
It’s pretty snug and cozy. Not a lot of room… If they’re going to manage whatever comes next year… Yeah, we’ll have to see about that. I don’t know. It will be interesting. I have a contract, so I’m sticking around for two more years so I’ve got to take whatever comes and make it work.
There’s enough races, I guess, and I only know what you guys know in terms of transfer rumours. It’s an interesting prospect but it’s one of the things that’ll test management. What a luxury problem to have. You have too many good riders and you have to manage them. I’m sure there’s teams who are struggling to get a guy in the top twenty who would kill for that problem.
Absolutely. There have been risings and fallings at this year’s Tour and you’re one of the riders who has risen. Hence the supreme banana.
I also won another award! Or did I lose it today?
[Cycling Tips’] Caley Fretz: You lost it!
Rouleur Super Bananas: