The 52nd place of Sean Bennett in the opening stage of the Tour of Slovenia was not at all representative of his strong performance in the race. The American cyclist raced aggressively and followed competitors for the general classification all day long, but had to pay the price for pulling in a small breakaway on the final climb.
Meanwhile, Xianjing Xu was doing very well further behind. The Chinese cyclist showed today what China Glory Cycling is trying to achieve with Chinese cyclists: reading the European races well, and improving their performances in high-level races, every day and every race.
Xu enjoyed a rather calm day in the saddle after a small mechanical pushed him in the ‘grupetto’. There he was saving energy, eating and drinking, to properly prepare for the next stages in Slovenia.
“This is what we want to see,”,Sports Director Lionel Marie said after the stage about Xu. “He had a great day today.”
Further up the road, it was Bennett following an early move by Tour de France-favorite Tadej Pogacar. He had to drop on the penultimate climb and then had to work together with Matej Mohoric in the valley. That was not easy, as Mohoric is a better rider on the flat.
“The legs were good, but chasing together with Mohoric to close down the gap with the front was too much for me. I killed my legs before the final climb,” Bennett said after the stage.
Unfortunately, there was also some bad news to report from Slovenia: Xianjing Lyu had to abandon due to sickness. The left is now left with six riders: Bennett, Hayden Strong, Lucas de Rossi, Willie Smit and Etienne van Empel.