Ieper, Belgium – In his second race of the season while competing for USA Cycling, Hagens Berman Axeon rider Sean Bennett sprinted his way to a seventh place finish at Gent-Wevelgem.
“It was a solid day,” remarked Bennett. “This season is going really well. I’m excited for the next few races and hope that I can keep the trend going, and hopefully do a little better than the top ten, maybe top five.”
Teammate Ian Garrison said it was the first pass over the Kemmelberg climb that set it all into motion during the 187-kilometer cobblestoned classic Nations Cup event in Belgium. Once over the climb, the peloton got quite a bit smaller. With about 40 km to go, Bennett and Garrison got away in a group of eight.
“I attacked on one of the more technical, gravel roads after the Kemmelberg,” said Garrison. “After some shuffling, a number of riders and I dropped back, and only a small group was left, the group that took it all the way to the line.”
Bennett was able to stay with the front group and tried to get the riders to work together to ensure the move would stick, an effort that took quite a bit of energy from the El Cerrito, California native.
“Some guys weren’t moving through,” said Bennett. “It was a challenge keeping everyone rotating forward and often meant I was taking extra pulls at the front.”
USA Cycling Under 23 Manager Nate Wilson said there was some final shuffling on the last lap. With 10 km to go, Bennett’s group only had a 20 second gap and were riding into a stiff headwind.
“Heading into the finish our group got pretty strung out,” described Bennett. “Once a couple of the guys made their move, everybody just went for it, and I gave it everything I had left. I’m really happy Jasper had a solid finish too.”
Today’s result marks Bennett’s second top ten finish this season after finishing in eighth in GC at Istrian Spring Trophy earlier this month. Also competing for USA Cycling were fellow Hagens Berman Axeon teammates Jonny Brown and Cole Davis, as well as Michael Hernandez (Aevolo Cycling) and Matteo Jorgenson (Jelly Belly P/B Maxxis).
“Overall it was a solid race for us,” said Wilson. “It was a strong field, and the racing and results never come easy. We set out to race aggressive and look for opportunities. The team did great work to look after Sean and Ian all day. I think it bodes really well for the rest of the classics. We're looking forward to building on this in the weeks to come.”
Riding for Belgium, Jasper Philipsen was the team’s next-best finisher, in 11th place. Garrison finished in 28th. Maikel Zijlaard, racing for the Netherlands, was 67th.
(Header photo of Sean Bennett by Davey Wilson)