Sam Bennett may have been the fastest rider in the sprint on Friday's 13th stage of the Giro d'Italia, but the Irishman ran out of luck in a complicated finale and had to be content with second place.
Bennett was aiming for what would have been his third stage win in the race, following on from successes last Friday and again on Thursday. However he got blocked in and had to thread a longer route in the final sprint.
While stage winner Elia Viviani had a direct run to the line, Bennett was edged off his wheel by the Italian's QuickStep Floors team-mate Zdenek Stybar and then got hemmed in by others.
He had to work his way over to the right side of the group and ended up taking a longer line around a sweeping left-hand curve.
The Bora-hansgrohe rider came from a long way back to pass others and close in on Viviani. His speed was impressive, but he but ran out of time.
“I didn’t get on the right wheel,” he said at the finish.
“I had to come from very far back. I think I was the quickest in the final, but I just couldn’t get out.”
However, he showed signs of his improved confidence after his two stage wins. “There will still be another day,” he stated, sounding determined.
Viviani’s win saw the Italian bolster his lead in the points classification. Bennett had narrowed his deficit to 22 points on Thursday but his rival’s win on Friday pushed it out again to 40 points.
However Bennett is a better climber and this may help him in intermediate sprints on the upcoming mountain stages and also on stage 17, which begins with a very lumpy first half – where Viviani will struggle – but then is much flatter later on.
That stage plus the final stage in Rome are the only possibilities remaining for big sprints, and both will be foremost on Bennett’s mind.
The race now heads into the high mountains for two tough stages. Overall race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) is aiming to pad his 47 second advantage over last year's Giro winner, Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb). The Briton is a better climber than his Dutch rival, who is eyeing next week's time trial as his best chance to win the race again.
Meanwhile the Rás Tailteann gets underway in Drogheda on Sunday, with a total of 155 riders signed up for the eight day, 1200 kilometre world-ranked event. The field comprises the Irish national team, 11 international squads and 19 Irish county teams, amongst which are former world and European champions and some exciting young talent.
Irish hopes will be represented by those on the national squad plus the three in the Ireland Holdsworth Pro Racing setup, as well as those on the county teams. Stage one takes the riders 136 kilometres to Athlone, with the race beginning at noon and ending on Sunday week in Skerries.
The race organisers continue their hunt for a new title sponsor after the departure of An Post, but this week announced the partnership with Europcar. The company will supply a fleet of support cars and vans to the event.