Sam Bennett wraps up stunning return to form with victory at the Four Days of Dunkirk

33-year-old from Carrick-on-Suir is finding his best form ahead of next month’s Tour de France

Sam Bennett kept on saying his finest form was just a stage win away, and now he’s proven it four times in quick succession, claiming the final stage and outright victory in the Four Days of Dunkirk in France.

Don’t be confused by the title, the six-day stage race afforded Bennett several bunch sprint opportunities and he certainly maximised them – the 33-year-old Carrick-on Suir rider also claiming his first general classification win in a stage race, bringing his overall pro career tally to 67 wins.

Before Tuesday’s opening stage, Bennett hadn’t won a race for 311 days, including 56 days of actual racing, going back to his two sprint stage wins in the Tour of Romania in July of 2023.

Edged into third on that opening day in Dunkirk, Bennett then won the second and third stages, finished second on the fourth stage and then finished off with his back-to-back wins in stage five and six, remarkably making the podium on all six days.


Bennett’s wins in Dunkirk are also the first for his team Decathlon Ag2r La Mondiale, which he joined at the start of this season. This superb return to form and consistency is a clear signal that he’s ready to return to the Tour de France in June, having last raced there in 2020, when he won two stages and claimed the green jersey for the points classification.

Sunday’s final stage across 176km into Dunkirk featured several cobbled sections, before finishing with seven 10km laps of the town. A four-man breakaway was caught with 12km to go, and once again his Decathlon Ag2r La Mondiale lead out was perfect, Oliver Naesen pulling in front close to the finish, with Bennett winning on the line, out-leaning Belgium’s Sasha Weemaes of Bingoal WB, with his old German rival Pascal Ackerman third.

“They were fantastic,” Bennett said of his team lead-out all week. “The thing about sprinting is it often doesn’t go to plan. The guys showed the maturity today and their experience.”

Having gone into the final stage 28 seconds ahead of Frenchman Paul Penhoet of Groupama-FDJ, the final stage win bonus of 10 seconds increased Bennett’s overall advantage to 38 seconds, with Jenno Berckmoes of Lotto Destiny third overall, 41 seconds back.

After ending his long drought of bunch sprint wins with a victory on the stage two on Wednesday, Bennett clearly regained confidence too.

“If I didn’t believe I could still come back, I wouldn’t try, I still believe I have it,” Bennett said. “I had the green jersey before. I want to go back to the Tour, I want to show I am still capable. That’s why I am still here.”

The focus now shifts to the Tour de France, which starts in Florence on June 29th and finishes in Nice on July 21st, the traditional Champs-Élysées finish moved his year as the Paris Olympics open on July 26th.

Meanwhile, Lara Gillespie enjoyed an excellent win with the UAE Development team at the Antwerp Port Epic Ladies’ one-day race in Belgium. The 23-year-old from Wicklow, who recently helped the Irish women’s team pursuit qualify for the Paris Olympics, displayed a brilliant spirit finish as a 10-rider bunch reached the finish.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics