Bennett keeps Tour dream alive after top-five finish
Sam Bennett once again showed he can hold his own against the top sprinters in the world when he took fifth in the prestigious Scheldeprijs classic in Belgium.
New professional Bennett has had an outstanding start to his first year in the paid ranks, taking numerous top fives and winning the Clasica de Almeria in Spain last month against far more experienced opposition.
Yesterday, just three days after his WorldTour classic debut at the Tour of Flanders, Bennett (23) was back in action for his NetApp Endura squad in the 200km Scheldeprijs, a one-day race from Antwerp to Schoton.
With an early six-man breakaway group finally hauled back inside the last three kilometres, Bennett's NetApp Endura squad began to edge their way through the peloton with the Carrick-On-Suir sprinter in their wake.
"It was a hectic finale with a lot of pushing and shoving," said Bennett. "Just trying to stay at the front was the hardest thing. You just got swamped so quickly and put right down the back."
Lead-out man Dempster deposited Bennett into the line of sprinters baying for the finish with around 800 metres to go, but while the Carrick-On-Suir youngster held his own in the sprint, there was simply no stopping German powerhouse Marcel Kittel.
The Giant-Shimano sprinter easily outgunned American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and Dutchman Danny van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing), with Italian Alessandro Petacchi of Omega Pharma Quickstep ahead of Bennett in fourth in the 1.HC ranked race.
Ranked 15th in the UCI European Tour before the race, Bennett claimed more UCI points for Ireland and will move up the rankings again today.
Bennett is also the highest ranked rider on the NetApp Endura squad and while the team didn't get a wild-card invitation to the Giro d'Italia, which starts in Ireland this year, they will be at the Tour de France when it begins in Yorkshire in July. Many expect Bennett to be there too. "I still have a bit to go to be at that level. It would be lovely to start. The Tour is just another level altogether but I'll keep trying to get results and if it comes my way, it comes my way," he said.