Like buses, you wait ages for major victories and then two come in a row. Having taken his first Grand Tour stage win in two years in a the Vuelta a España on Saturday, Sam Bennett stormed to a second one on Sunday.
Jumping early in the bright green jersey of the points classification leader, he held off the former world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) plus the rest of the bunch, hitting the line almost a full bike length ahead.
“For this to happen two days in a row was quite nice,” Bennett said, speaking with a little understatement. “This is confidence boosting, for sure…”
Bennett was the best sprinter in the peloton in 2020 and early 2021, winning two stages plus the green jersey in the Tour de France, netting a stage in the Vuelta a España and notching up a number of other good wins. He then had a long period in the wilderness due to injury and, with just one win to his credit this year, was passed over for selection for this year’s Tour de France.
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He continued working hard since then and is very much back to winning shape. If Saturday was a breakthrough, Sunday was a confirmation. Bennett’s success in the Dutch city of Breda was due in part to strong work from teammates such as Irishman Ryan Mullen and Danny van Poppel, and came despite being closely marked as the sprinter in form.
”It was quite hard because a lot of people were fighting for our wheel,” he said. “I think it is just a natural flow that people start to go up beside me and squeeze me off, so I had a few tough moments just to hold Danny’s wheel. So it was quite a hard fight.
“It wasn’t a hard day watts-wise, but there were a lot of accelerations out of the corners all day. Again, the job they did in the final…Jonas [Koch], even though he was riding all day, came back and did another big turn. Ryan [Mullen] kept us up there, taking so much wind, and then Danny…it was a masterclass.”
Overnight race leader Mike Teunissen didn’t sprint at the finish, with the red jersey passing to his Jumbo-Visma teammate Edoardo Affini as a result. It’s very early days yet but designated team captain Primož Roglič seems to have recovered from the injury which put him out of the Tour de France, and is lurking on the same time as Affini after the squad won Friday’s opening team time trial.
The race has a rest day on Monday, with the riders, the teams and all the other race personnel travelling from the Netherlands to Spain and the restart on Tuesday in Vitoria-Gasteiz. The stage is an undulating one and Bennett’s chances of a third win will depend on how he handles the lumpy terrain.
Whichever way that goes, there are several further opportunities for the sprinters. He’s back on form and with his confidence soaring, seems poised for further success.