George Bennett is set for a return to the Tour de France, but is unlikely to lead his team at cycling's biggest race.
Bennett was on track for a top 10 finish at the Tour in 2017 when he had to withdraw due to illness, and didn't ride at the Tour this year, instead opting to race at the Giro d'Italia — where he finished eighth, and the Vuelta a Espana — where he struggled to 35th overall.
He now looks set to have another crack at the Tour in 2019, but will likely have to do so in support of Steven Kruijswijk. Kruijswijk has been named the leader of the newly-branded Team Jumbo-Visma squad for the Tour, with sporting director Merijn Zeeman naming Bennett as one of the riders who will support the Dutch veteran.
"There's support for Steven in the mountains with Robert Gesink and George Bennett. I believe he feels the confidence the team have in him — especially when world class riders like Bennett, Gesink and Tony Martin are your helpers for a Grand Tour," said Zeeman.
Bennett didn't want to officially confirm his Grand Tour schedule, saying it was "more or less sorted", but noted the Tour was his main goal.
"That's definitely the main thing for me — that's the one I want to do the most," Bennett told Radio Sport.
However, Bennett might have relinquished his role as leader or co-leader in some of the biggest races, after the superb performances of two of his teammates.
Kruijswijk had the best year of his career, finishing fifth at the Tour and fourth at the Vuelta, while Primoz Roglic was one of the best riders in the world, finishing fourth at the Tour and winning three World Tour stage races.
Although Bennett had a solid year — finishing in the top 15 in eight World Tour races — his Grand Tour performances weren't as good as his star teammates, and he says they deserve the leadership.
"Last year, the guys really stepped up. Those guys actually deserve the leadership. It's something that has to be earned and those guys earned it.
"I'll definitely be a leader in one of the Grand Tours at some stage, but it might be at one of them that I'm also playing a big support role. That's just the way it goes, and you have to earn that leadership back."
Bennett is aiming to ride at two Grand Tours — likely the Tour and the Vuelta — but knows he needs to find the right balance to succeed in both.
"It leaves you pretty empty at the end of the year. This year I was running on fumes. I didn't get it right doing two. I think I just really pushed it a bit hard and ended up blowing up in the Vuelta.
"I think you can do two but you have to trust your natural ability and not train too much in between."
Bennett will start his season next month at the New Zealand national championships in Napier, before riding the Tour Down Under in Australia. Then, after spending February training at home, he will focus on Paris-Nice and the Tour of Basque Country as major early-season races.