Sam Bennett delivers stage win in An Post Rás
An Post rider blasts home for victory as leader Hawkins crashes out of race while Bialoblocki grabs yellow jersey
Eventual stage winner Sam Bennett of An Post Chain Reaction lies behind team-mate Shane Archbold as they enter Adare, Co Limerick, during stage three of the An Post Rás yesterday. Photograph: Inpho
The An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly rider had first triumphed on his debut in the Rás in 2009, but since then has had to be content with second and third on stages.
Yesterday, on the streets of Listowel, the fast-finishing Carrick-on-Suir rider put things right. Manoeuvred into position by team-mates, he blasted home over a bike length clear of Morton Oellegaard (Denmark Blue Water), Marcin Bialoblocki (Team UK Youth) and the rest of the large front group, with his raised arms being echoed by the other An Post riders as they realised he had triumphed.
“I am pretty happy – it is a long time since I got a win, I think over a year and a half,” said a delighted Bennett after the stage. “So it is a relief.”
The 22-year-old has long been regarded as one of the most talented of the current batch of young Irish riders.
He was 10th in last year’s under-23 world championships despite being delayed on the last lap and having to use a lot of energy to get back to the bunch.
However he has been hampered by injury in recent years, although persistent knee problems were eased by operations at the end of last season. He’s had a better run of things since then, and feels like he’s starting to come into good form.
“In the last couple of months I’ve been feeling like I am stronger (than before), but I am still missing that little bit, that little five per cent.
“But I am starting to come around now. Hopefully there is more to come.”
The victory was the second in three days by an Irish rider, with Conor Dunne (Tipperary Carrick Iverk Produce) taking the first stage.
Another Irishman, Peter Hawkins (IG Sigma Sport) took over from him in the yellow jersey on Monday but his excitement at riding yesterday’s stage in that garment was abruptly ended due to a crash he suffered approximately 80 kilometres after the start in Nenagh.
Hawkins went down hard and while he was able to get back up to the bunch, medical attention showed that he had likely broken his collarbone.
He was forced to quit the race, while another Irish hope Aaron Buggle (Rapha Condor JLT) fell in a subsequent crash and lost a lot of time.
Earlier, two other Irish riders, Seán Downey (An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly) and Roger Aiken (Louth Prague Charter), joined up with the Kiwi Dan Barry (Britain Node4 Giordana) in the day’s big break.
They went clear 23 kilometres after the start and eked out a lead of almost seven minutes, but were caught with approximately 16 kilometres to go.
That set things up for a big sprint to the line and Bennett’s win, while Bialoblocki’s third place was enough for him to take over the yellow jersey on the basis of his strong stage placings to date.
The Polish rider starts today’s hilly 153 kilometre stage to Glengarriff level on time with Archbold, Irishman Connor McConvey (Azerbaijan Synergy Baku) and five others, and will have to defend his lead over eight categorised climbs, including the daunting Healy Pass.