Sam Bennett, the first Irishman to win the Tour de France's green jersey since 1989, has made some interesting comments about the coverage of the sport in Ireland.
Speaking at the launch of the new NOW TV dublin bikes app, Bennett spoke of the challenges his sport faces to get positive coverage in this country. Asked if he'd like cycling to get more coverage in Ireland, Bennett replied:
If you did any sport, you're looking for coverage. You want to be noticed for the efforts and the work you put in.
It's a part that I don't ever like to go into. In Ireland, they only seem to focus on the bad sides of it. There's so much good stuff to cycling. It's such a fantastic sport and I just feel it gets trashed a lot. It hurts because I feel like I'm a genuine guy and I work so hard that I don't like that the image is destroyed sometimes. That's the only thing I get sometimes with one or two guys in Ireland.
In general, the people I work with and talk to, they've been fantastic in giving me some great coverage. During the Tour, I got some fantastic exposure. I can't complain really. Over the Tour, it took off. Over the Christmas, I got some great exposure.
It's all positive and it's going in a good direction now.
Cycling has famously been dogged by doping scandals over the decades, and Irish journalists have been to the fore in exposing those various doping scandals.
Bennett also said he got a real boost from the Irish fan support as he powered to the green jersey back on September.
'It was something new to me. I didn't have that much of a following before this year's Tour de France from the general public. But [last] year on the Tour de France, it really took off. It was a pressure and expectation that really got to me, but at the same time, having that support and seeing everyone celebrate was fantastic to see.'
The 30-year-old from Carrick-on-Suir is currently at a training camp in Spain preparing himself for another big year amid the uncertainty of a pandemic. The cycling calendar remains in flux as the world struggles to contain covid-19, and there are huge challenges preparing both the mind and body for the year ahead.
'The most difficult thing is you have to have the dates and the races to know when to peak,' he says.
Bennett's season is broken into three blocks - first a race in the UAE then Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo, then a break and a build-up to the Tour de France and another assault on the green jersey before a final block where 'you're just trying to hold on until the end of the season. Because, by that time, if you excuse my language, you're fucked.'
Amid the uncertainty, Bennett is confident about his chances in the 2021 Tour de France as he feels the course is more favourable to him this year than last year. While the Champs de Elysses is a long way off. the hard work to get there starts around now.
Irish cyclist and Tour De France green jersey winner, Sam Bennett, today officially launched the newly rebranded NOW TV dublinbikes which are hitting the streets of Dublin from this week. NOW TV was announced as the new sponsor of dublinbikes late last year as part of a three-year commercial partnership with Dublin City Council and JCDecaux.