Bennett sprints to stage triumph
Sam Bennett gave Ireland its first stage win at the Giro d'Italia in 31 years yesterday when he outsprinted double stage winner Elia Viviani of Quick-Step and the rest of a heaving peloton at the end of the 156km seventh stage into Praia a Mare.
The Carrick-On-Suir sprinter, who has been knocking on the door of a Grand Tour stage win for a couple of years now, finished third on stages two and three earlier this week, and after mistiming his sprint on both of those occasions, hit the front with just 50m to go yesterday to snatch the biggest victory of his career thus far.
"I feel relieved," was an emotional Bennett's first reaction.
"Being the first Irish stage winner since Stephen Roche in 1987 shows how hard it is to win a stage at the Giro d'Italia.
"I'm obviously delighted to get my first Grand Tour victory. At one point I thought it would never come but it was a question of keeping the faith and being patient, and thankfully the time came today."
Rather than take on the lead-out themselves, Bennett's Bora Hansgrohe team put him in position on Viviani's wheel in the final kilometres, and Bennett gambled on staying there until the last moment.
"I've been so close so many times in the Giro, to really get the timing right was key with so many fast sprinters here. It's not easy to beat Viviani - he really knows what he's doing. I just had to get that wheel, and have a bit of patience as well."
As the bunch waved across the road in the finale, Bennett calmly held his place until kicking for home with 50 to go.
"I think the hardest thing today was to have patience. I thought Quick-Step left it too late. I saw them looking back and checking me, maybe trying to get me to panic and go early again but I kept my cool and it paid off. I'm delighted."