Ireland’s Sam Bennett wins stage seven of the Giro d’Italia

Bennett pips Viviani to become first Irish winner of a stage since Stephen Roche in 1987

 

It took three Grand Tour participations, but Sam Bennett has now grabbed a sprint victory in one of cycling’s top stage races. The Carrick on Suir rider blasted in first on Friday’s seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia, showing positioning, patience and then power in the sprint into Praia a Mare.

Bennett had finished third last week on the first two road race stages, and said after each one that he got his timing wrong, thus giving Italian rider Elia Viviani the upper hand. This time around, Bennett did things to perfection: he tracked points jersey leader Viviani inside the final kilometres, staying tight to his rear wheel and not panicking even when they were far back in the peloton.

Bennett remained on Viviani’s wheel when the latter’s QuickStep Floors team dragged him close to the front, then continued to bide his time until the right moment. That meant freewheeling twice inside the final 300 metres, as well as brushing shoulders with one of Viviani’s teammates as he drifted back. The Italian then launched, but was unable to match Bennett when he kicked inside 100 metres to go.

“I feel relieved. I’ve been so close so many times in the Giro,” said Bennett, who was second, third, third and third on stages last year and third twice in this edition. “To really get the timing right was key with so many fast sprinters here. It is not easy to beat Viviani. He really knows what he is doing. But I think my time came…at one point I thought it would never come.”

Bennett noted that biding his time was key to the success. “I think the hardest thing today was to have the patience. There was one point where I thought that QuickStep had left it too late. But I saw them looking back, checking me out, and I was wondering if they were trying to get me to panic and go to early again. So I was glad I kept my cool.”

Once he got into position, he had to deflect another QuickStep Floors’ tactic. “His teammate tried to take Viviani’s wheel to more breathing space, and I kind of had to close the door there,” he smiled, referring to the rub of shoulders which got that rider to back off.

Bennett’s victory is the fourth Irish win in the Giro. Shay Elliott, Stephen Roche and Martin Earley previously triumphed on stages of the race. It is the eighth Irish Grand Tour stage win in history, with Sean Kelly, Dan Martin, Nicolas Roche and Philip Deignan also triumphant on stages of cycling’s three week races.

This weekend sees the Giro tackle two mountain stages, but a more confident - and more relaxed - Bennett will have further chances later in the race. Now he’s taken his maiden stage win, another may well be on the way.

Stage 7 (Pizzo — Praia a Mare, 159 km): 1 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe 3h 45m 27s, 2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, 3 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, 4 Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale, 5 Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, 6 Jakub Mareczko (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia, 7 Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, 8 Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, 9 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) BMC Racing Team, 10 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal all same time.

General Classification: 1 Simon Yates (Gbr) Mitchelton-Scott 26h 31m 30s, 2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb at 16s, 3 Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott at 26s, 4 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 43s, 5 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 45s, 6 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 53s, 7 Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team at 1m 03s, 8 Chris Froome (Gbr) Team Sky at 1m 10s, 9 George Bennett (Nzl) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1m 11s, 10 Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 1m 12s.

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