Bennett blasts to Giro stage double
Ireland's Sam Bennett took his second stage win in six days at the Giro d'Italia yesterday when he powered to victory over a reduced peloton at the end of stage 12 on the famous motor racing circuit in Imola.
Torrential rain saw the peloton split in two with 30km of another mammoth 214km stage remaining, and with sprint rival Elia Viviani one of those culled in the rainstorm, Bennett's Bora-Hansgrohe team piled on the pressure to make sure the Italian didn't regain contact before the finishing circuit.
With 9km to go, Bennett hovered at the front to keep out of trouble and even found himself going clear on the final drag of the day.
"I saw people looking at each other and I thought, 'maybe I'll slip away'," smiled the Carrick-on-Suir sprinter afterwards.
"I thought there could be crashes on the descent and it's better to be in the front than trying to make up ground. Also, I could see Bahrain trying to attack again and I wanted to be ready for them."
The Bahrain-Merida squad did manage to get stage 10 winner Matej Mohoric up the road alongside Movistar's Carlos Betancur in the final 5km and the Slovenian looked likely to pull off a second stage victory until an in-form Bennett launched his effort early with around 500m to go.
"It was a difficult finale with bad conditions and I had to commit early because I had to close the gap," said Bennett after he was greeted at the finish by fiancée Tara.
"I couldn't let another stage get away from me. To be honest, I didn't realise the finish was that far away, but I just committed."
The early sprint caught his competitors on the hop and Bennett opened a big enough gap to allow him to ease up a little and savour the victory in the final metres.
"I didn't know if I could hold it or not but I think I caught some guys by surprise, so it worked to my advantage. It gives me confidence that I had to go so early and I pulled it off. It's a nice way to win."
Bennett's second stage victory brings him within two points of Elia Viviani's 'ciclamino' jersey and the lead of the points competition, although it's not something he's committed to just yet.
"It's getting closer, but I'm just going to focus on stage wins and then in the last week, if it's really close, then maybe I'll look at it."