Bouncing back from the puncture which scuppered his chances on Thursday's penultimate stage of the Tour of Qatar, Sam Bennett sprinted to victory on the final day of the race on Friday.
The Carrick-on-Suir rider showed his increased speed this year when he out-galloped top names such as Giro d'Italia stage winners Andrea Guardini and Nacer Bouhanni, three-time Tour de France green jersey Peter Sagan plus the rest of the bunch.
He hit the line well clear, finally getting a chance to show the power improvements he had worked on over the winter.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the win,” said the Bora-Argon 18 pro afterwards. “The first win of the season is always the hardest and to get it while racing against the world’s best makes it that bit sweeter.
“The team did a fantastic job today and all week. I would like to thank them.”
The result follows on from his fourth and tenth places on stages of last month’s Mallorca Challenge plus fifth in last Sunday’s opening stage of the Tour of Qatar.
Bennett took three UCI-ranked wins last season but the calibre of the Tour of Qatar field shows how much he has progressed.
His team has been given a wildcard invite to the Tour de France. Providing he can keep building as it approaches, he looks like a near-certainty to make his debut in the race in July.