Sam Bennett makes winning return at Tour of Algarve

Irish cyclist holds on for victory despite losing two lead-out riders after a crash

It required slightly more effort than desired and still the execution was near perfect, Sam Bennett winning the opening stage of the five-day Tour of Algarve with just enough in reserve to raise his right arm in triumph, taking the race lead in the process.

Back racing for the first time in a month since finishing second in the Scheldeprijs one-day classic on April 7th, it also brings Bennett's winning tally this season to six, all building nicely towards the start of next month's Tour de France and the defence of his green jersey.

The 189.5km run from Lagos from Portimao featured several testing hills around the midway section, Bennett taking the win after four hours, 37 minutes and 41 seconds of riding under the clear, warm sunshine: no wonder he looked spent at the end.

Bennett's final sprint effort wasn't helped when two of his Deceuninck-Quick-Step lead-out riders, Fabio Jakobsen and Shane Archbold, crashed with around 4km to go. Still, Davide Ballerini and Michael Morkov were able to take control of the front in the last 500m, before Bennett broke clear to hold off the charge of Dutch rider Danny van Poppel.

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“I’m really happy with the win,” said Bennett. “I didn’t know how the legs were going to be coming into this race, after the short break. And I was on the limit today, but the team did an incredible job, even when riders came down in crashes, we adapted to the situation, and were able to do a fantastic job.

“I just had to stay alert, tried to stay upright, and just put my trust in my team-mates when they came back in the last 2km, It was hard in the end, the legs were kind of spent, but I just managed to pull it off.

“Like I don’t have much training done for this race, and I have a lot of work to do after the sensations I got today, but it’s a boost of confidence, yeah, because I could still finish the job.”

While stage 2 brings the race into the mountains, the 182.8km from Sagres to Foia, Bennett will have the chance of another win on Friday’s mostly flat 203km run from Faro to Tavira.