Sam Bennett's ambition of adding Tour de France stage wins to his Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España successes took a leap forward on Thursday with the news that the obstacle to his move to a new team has finally been removed.
Bennett has been part of the Bora-Hansgrohe set-up since he turned pro and, while he has evolved into arguably the world’s best sprinter, his chances were considerably stifled this season.
The German squad shrugged off his three stage wins in last year's Giro to instead select the German sprinter Pascal Ackermann. It also kept Bennett off its Tour de France squad, with Peter Sagan again leading the team's sprint campaign there. The Irishman's displeasure was clear but an anticipated move to Deceuninck-QuickStep was complicated by a legal tussle after Bora-Hansgrohe claimed that he had made a preliminary agreement to stay put for 2020.
His exit was finally confirmed on Thursday.
"After a great story of success in the past years, Bora-Hansgrohe and Sam Bennett have decided to go separate ways," said the squad in a statement.
“Over the last six years, Bora-Hansgrohe developed Sam Bennett into one of the best sprinters in the peloton. Against this background it however became more and more difficult to align the team’s and rider’s goals.
“Therefore, Bora-Hansgrohe’s management has decided to accept Sam Bennett’s wish to leave Bora-Hansgrohe and continue his journey with another team.” It concluded the statement by wishing him well and saying it “hopes that he can live up to his sporting dreams”.
It is not clear if Bennett had to make a financial payment to end the standoff. Deceuninck-QuickStep is yet to officially announce his signing.
In other news, 10 Irish riders will compete in round two of the UCI's track World Cup programme this week, starting Thursday and running until Sunday. This follows on from a strong showing in last week's opening round in Minsk, Belarus.
The Irish women's team pursuit squad finished seventh last week, taking more than four seconds off the previous national record in recording a qualifying time of four minutes 25.389 seconds. Robyn Stewart was eighth in the women's keirin while Mia Griffin was ninth in the scratch race.