Sprint king Bennett makes World Tour breakthrough
Ireland's Sam Bennett followed in the pedal strokes of his mentor Seán Kelly as he showed some of the world's top sprinters a clean pair of heels to win yesterday's third stage of Paris-Nice, the biggest win of his professional career.
A veritable who's who of the World Tour's fastest finishers were left trailing in Bennett's wake as he burst to the front with 150 metres to go to take his first World Tour victory by almost two bike lengths at the end of the 190km stage to Chalon-sur-Saone.
While the big sprint trains converged at the front of the peloton in the last 20km, Bennett - with the help of his Bora-Hansgrohe team-mates - bounced from wheel to wheel in an effort to hold his position and get to the finale at the sharp end of the peloton.
"To be honest, I was fighting for position to get near the front and was finding it really difficult to stay there," said Bennett who, like Kelly, hails from Carrick-on-Suir. "In the end I got really lucky but the guys did a fantastic job to get me in the perfect position and I want to thank them so much."
When he did go, the 26-year-old blitzed the field to take Ireland's first stage win on the 'Race to the Sun' since Stephen Roche 28 years ago.
"I had a lot of confidence coming into this race, just from the feeling in my legs," he said.
"I knew with a bit of luck today that something was possible. I didn't know if that was a win or a top five but I thought something was possible. I launched my sprint at 200 metres, hit the front and held on. I can't tell you what this win means to me. To finally get a World Tour win is something special and to do it in Paris-Nice is an amazing feeling. I'm super happy."