Sam Bennett’s confidence rises with third place in Turkey

‘I am not far away... I still miss a little top end power, but it is getting better and better’

Sam Bennett went close to nabbing his first victory of the season on Monday, taking a podium finish on the second stage of the Tour of Turkey. The Carrick-On-Suir rider finished third into Alacati, just behind the Australian Kaden Groves (BikeExchange) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix).

Bennett was poised behind his leadout man Danny van Poppel as the sprint unfolded but chose instead to jump across to the wheel of Sunday’s stage winner Caleb Ewan, the overall leader. However the Lotto Soudal rider didn’t appear to have the legs to sprint and by the time Bennett swept past him, he had lost important ground to Groves and Philipsen.

“It was a very fast finale due to the tailwind,” Bennett said. “The fight for positions was quite hard and there have been also some crashes, but the boys did once again a great job to keep me out of trouble the whole day, and also in the end they have been amazing. After the last corner I was sitting in Danny’s wheel and the position was very good.

“When Caleb opened his sprint, he wasn’t fresh enough and didn’t really accelerate which surprised me, so I got stuck a little behind him while on the right side Philipsen and Groves passed. I tried to accelerate but it was already too late. But I am happy with the progression over the last weeks, and I am not far away from being really competitive again. I still miss a little top end power, but it is getting better and better.”

Ewan finished back in fifth and conceded his race lead to Groves.

The stage included rolling terrain. Tuesday’s third stage runs from Cesme to Izmir and is much flatter. A bunch sprint is the most likely outcome, giving Bennett another chance to land his long-awaited first win of 2022.

Team sports director Bernhard Eisel believes that a big result is on the horizon.

“Sam is getting better and better,” he said. “He just was sitting in the wrong wheel today. I think we can be happy with his progress, and I am optimistic for the remaining sprint stages.”

Presidential Tour of Turkey (2.Pro)

Stage 2 Selcuk to Alacati: 1 Kaden Groves (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) 156.4 kilometres in 4 hours 2'11", 2 J Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), 3 S Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe), 4 C Bol (Team DSM), 5 C Ewan (Lotto Soudal) all same time

Other Irish: 42 R Mullen (Bora-hansgrohe) same time, 115 C McGeough (Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling) 1'44", 118 J Ewart (Bike Aid) same time

Overall standings after stage 2: 1 Kaden Groves (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) 8 hours 40 mins 12", 2 J Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 2", 3 C Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 4", 4 C Bol (Team DSM) 14", 5 D Van Poppel (Bora-hansgrohe) same time

Irish: 25 R Mullen (Bora-hansgrohe) 14", 69 S Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) 53", 88 C McGeough (Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling) 2'48", 124 J Ewart (Bike Aid) 10'52"

Points: 1 Kaden Groves (Team BikeExchange - Jayco) 28, 2 J Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 28, 3 C Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 26

Irish: 8 S Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) 13