Sam Bennett secures career-best victory in Tour of Britain
Ireland's Sam Bennett took the biggest victory of his career when he outsprinted a select group of overall favourites, including 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, to take victory on stage five of the Tour of Britain in Caerphilly.
Better known as a sprinter, the An Post Chainreaction rider's victory was made all the more impressive by the fact that the stage was deemed to be one of the hardest of the eight-day race, with two ascents of Caerphilly Mountain on the finishing circuit.
Having finished in second place on the uphill finish to Kendal on stage two, 22-year-old Bennett was one of only 15 riders, including race leader Wiggins, Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana and Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Dan Martin, who remained in the lead group as they approached the finish.
"The second time up it was hard but I knew that if I got over the top of the climb in the front group, I would have time to recover coming down the descent to the finish," said a delighted Bennett.
"It was a fast finish but I knew the fastest guys wouldn't be there because of the climb. When we got over the top I didn't panic. I knew the three IAM guys would try to lead out the sprint so I got onto their wheels in the last kilometre."
Indeed, the Carrick-On-Suir youngster confidently nudged race leader Wiggins off the wheels of the sprint train with 900m to go and positioned himself perfectly to go into the final corner third in line.
From here, he unleashed the trademark sprint that saw him take victory on two stages of the An Post Ras in May, and outgalloped Michael Golas and Martin Elmiger to the line for his biggest ever victory.
"I didn't even know I bumped him off the wheel," laughed the 22-year-old. "I was just trying to get on the best wheel possible coming into the finish, so I did what I had to do. There was a bit of a wet patch in the last corner so I ran a bit wide but came out of it and saw 100m to go and just kicked.
"On the climb, I couldn't see if somebody had gone off the front and stayed away. I didn't have to do much in the last 50m but I didn't put up my hands just in case somebody was ahead."
Bennett's victory comes just 24 hours after he was selected alongside Nicolas Roche, Martin and Matt Brammeier in the Ireland team for the world road race championships on Sunday week and he hopes it will go a long way to earning him a contract with a bigger team.
"This win means a lot to me and hopefully it gets the attention of some of the big teams," he said. "The ultimate aim is to sign for a top pro team. "
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