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Sam Bennett’s exit from Tour de France sparks tension in his team

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The news that Sam Bennett will miss this year’s Tour de France through injury came as a big disappointment for Irish cycling fans, and indeed supporters around the world, but it is also a big blow to Bennett himself. The Carrick-on-Suir rider was the most notable absentee from the Tour line-up announced by his Deceuninck-QuickStep team on Monday, with Bennett explaining that a knee problem prevented him from taking part.

His disappointment at missing the Tour will be amplified by his strong showing last year, the seven victories he clocked up so far in 2021 and by the fact that he is leaving his current squad at the end of the season. While he has already been linked to a possible move back to his former team Bora-Hansgrohe and to Ineos Grenadiers, more Tour success this year would have further enhanced his earning potential.

Unless a contract for next season has already been finalised, missing the Tour will likely impact the number of offers he receives from other teams. He won two stages plus the green jersey in last year’s race and, without injury, would have started the Tour this Saturday as arguably the top favourite for the sprints.

He is instead travelling to Belgium for a full assessment of his injury.

“Sometimes life throws you a curveball,” he said in a statement. “A couple of weeks ago in training I had a really minor injury that I simply couldn’t heal in time to be at my best for this year’s Tour de France. Myself and the team believed I would be ready in time but it became clear in the last few days that I wouldn’t be at the level I always strive to be at to win bunch sprints at the biggest race in the world.

‘Keep fighting’

“This season has so much more to offer me so I’m going to keep fighting and, most importantly, race without any injury risk, in the coming weeks and months.

“Needless to say, I’m very disappointed to not be able to defend my green jersey at this year’s Tour de France.”

It is understood that Bennett’s gears slipped while training and he banged his knee off his handlebars. Coincidentally, Stephen Roche suffered the same mishap during the 1989 Tour de France and was forced to withdraw from the race as a result.

Bennett’s frustration will be exacerbated by some tactless criticism of him from the Deceuninck-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere on Monday. Speaking to the Belgian media outlet Sporza, Lefevere questioned the Irish rider’s mindset. “When Bennett called that he was injured and that he needed care and rest, we already felt the mood that he was not going to be ready for the Tour,” he said.

“Three days before the Tour of Belgium, he bumped his knee against his handlebars. He didn’t tell us anything about that. When he arrived [to the race], we sent him home again. Then it was a yes-no game: to train or not to train?

“I cannot prove that he does not have knee pain, but I am starting to think more and more that it is more fear of failure than just pain.”

High expectations

Given Bennett’s known own high expectations of himself, and considering the success of last year’s Tour plus his seven wins thus far this season, the public slating was questioned by some on Monday. Lefevere is an outspoken character, and is known to be frustrated that he cannot match the salary offers made to Bennett by other teams for next year.

It is not yet clear how long Bennett will be out of competition. The hilly nature of the Tokyo 2020 road race course had already made his selection for the Olympics a long shot. However, depending on the speed of his recovery from injury, he could potentially target stage victories in the Vuelta a España, which begins on Saturday August 14th.

Bennett won stage four of the race last year, adding to two stage victories there in 2019.

Thus far, Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) is the only Irish rider confirmed for the Tour. He won a stage in last month’s Giro d’Italia and finished a solid 10th overall. His first cousin Nicolas Roche is a possible starter, but the Team DSM line-up is yet to be announced.

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Taoiseach’s family shaped by their working-class roots

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As a special needs assistant at Bunscoil Chríost Rí in Turner’s Cross on the south side of Cork city, Mairéad Martin-Richmond is often asked how she manages financially.

Martin-Richmond, a 59-year-old separated mother of two grown-up children, is a sister of Taoiseach Micheál Martin and says her family’s working-class roots keep her grounded.

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Hines invests in industrial portfolio in Northern Italy

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Hines has reached a binding agreement for an off-market investment to acquire 20 logistics assets located between Emilia Romagna and Lombardy through the Italian fund HEVF II Italy managed by Prelios SGR on behalf of the Hines European Value Fund 2 (HEVF 2). The transaction involves the acquisition of the real estate portfolio from four different selling companies and the simultaneous 15-year lease of the same portfolio to Snatt Logistica Group, a leader in the third-party logistics (3PL) sector focusing exclusively on the fashion industry. The portfolio of 20 logistics assets provides a total of 200,000m² of logistics space around Milan, Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Bologna. They are strategic, well-established logistic centres that enjoy effective, rapid connections with Italy’s main cities and the rest of Europe.

 

“We are pleased to start 2022 with an important investment in the logistics sector that consolidates our presence in the main intersections in Northern Italy. At Hines, we believe in the potential of the logistics sector in Italy and have set an investment target of around €1bn in 2022,” commented Mario Abbadessa, senior managing director & country head of Hines Italy. “We are proud to collaborate with Snatt Logistica Group, which is an international 3PL logistics leader in the luxury fashion industry, and we are certain that we will be able to develop a shared path for growth, guided by common values, including ESG, which is key to our DNA.”

 

Paul White, senior managing director and fund manager for HEVF 2 at Hines, said: “This is an attractive portfolio of assets with a strong, innovative tenant at the forefront of Italy’s fast-growing third-party logistics sector for the fashion industry. We believe that e-commerce will continue to drive long-term demand for high-quality logistics facilities in Italy’s northern cities, pushing the value of these investments forwards, while there is also a significant opportunity to enhance the sustainability performance of existing assets here. This is aligned with our ESG objectives as recognised by GRESB, with HEVF 2 achieving the award of Overall Global Sector Leader in the Diversified Office/Retail category for sustainability performance in 2021.”

 

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Latest Coveney gaffe shows new knack of ‘making small problems big’

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“Don’t mind your press releases,” a Fine Gael source was told by a more experienced hand on their first day in Leinster House; “If you want something out there, just say it in the PP [parliamentary party meeting].”

It’s a truism of Irish politics that these meetings – especially those of the two larger Government parties – leak like the proverbial sieve. This got worse during Covid, when virtual meetings meant members were unencumbered by the need to even appear interested, and journalists were freely briefed in real time. The content of the meeting, coupled with the observations of parliamentarians – arch, knowing, and unfiltered – populated twitter streams and news copy.

So, when Simon Coveney’s remarks about his surprise at the meeting between the Russian ambassador to Ireland and the head of the defence forces were promptly headline news, it can’t have been too much of a shock. “He knows he’s speaking at the leakiest meeting in Leinster House,” observed a source present.

Still, some in the room thought when Michael Creed raised the issue, Coveney would just “warble on like you normally do”. Instead, after a gap of several minutes while other questions were fielded, the Minister for Defence bit down. He said he was “surprised to put it mildly”, several sources present said, and questioned the judgement of it.

Afterwards, sources close to Coveney quickly asserted the Minister meant the tweet from the Russians, and the accompanying picture, were the issue, not the meeting. But multiple sources at the parliamentary party interpreted it as referring to the meeting, and what’s more, as a direct rebuke to the chief of staff. “The tone I got was he was f***ing livid,” said one source.

Either way, the remark was leaked, it was controversial, and early the next morning, Coveney was mending fences in the Dáil, expressing confidence in Clancy and contrition for having brought him into the line of political fire.

A kind interpretation, offered by some at the meeting, is that he feels honour-bound to respond fully to questions from parliamentary colleagues. There is likely truth to that. But equally, many believe he would have known his comments would have been controversial, open to interpretation as a rebuke to the head of the Defence Forces, and that it was meant as a shot across the bows.

Others postulate that – perhaps more worryingly – he didn’t detect the political risk inherent in the remarks, which the Opposition would say had undermined the Chief of Staff . “Simon should have known this was going to result in public comment,” said another person there.

That, in truth is the bigger concern – that Coveney’s bad run of form is down to a blunted political dexterity. “You’d know by the way he said it he wasn’t trying to cause controversy,” one colleague said – adding that it was, however, evidence of Coveney’s new knack of “making small problems into big ones”.

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