Sam Bennett found himself outmanoeuvred at the end of stage two of the UAE Tour, with the Carrick on Suir rider appearing to be in prime position but then being swamped by the other sprinters and boxed in.
Bennett had finished second on Sunday's opening stage and both he and his Bora-hansgrohe team were fired up to chase what would have been Bennett's first win since suffering a knee injury last June. However, despite strong work by Irish road race champion Ryan Mullen and others on the squad, things unravelled inside the final kilometre.
In contrast to Sunday, Bennett's leadout man Danny Van Poppel didn't appear to have the same sort of oomph in Monday's finale, most likely due to a headwind. Bennett's former teammate Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Sunday's winner Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) and Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) darted past, hemming Bennett in before he could even begin his sprint. Realising his chance was gone, he sat up, freewheeled in and finished 17th. Cavendish beat Philipsen and Ackermann to win.
Although Bennett will be disappointed with the outcome, he had said prior to the race that his biggest priority was working with his leadout train and learning how best to ride together. They will analyse Monday’s result and fine-tune things with that information, then resume trying to deliver Bennett a win before the race ends next Saturday.
Tuesday’s third stage is a flat nine kilometre time trial at Ajman. Mullen, rather than Bennett, is Ireland’s best chance for a strong result in that race against the clock. Thursday’s stage to Al Marjan Island and Friday’s similarly-flat leg to Expo 2020 Dubai are the remaining two opportunities for a bunch sprint.
UAE Tour, United Arab Emirates (WorldTour)
Stage 2, Hudayriyat Island to Abu Dhabi Breakwater: 1 Mark Cavendish
(QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) 176 kilometres in 4 hours 20’45”, 2 J Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), 3 P Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates), 4 O Kooij (Jumbo-Visma), 5 A Demare (Groupama-FDJ) all same time
General classification after stage 2: 1 Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix)
9 hours 3’3”, 2 D Strakhov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) at 4”, 3 M Cavendish
(QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) at 6”, 4 S Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) at 10”, 5 P Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) at 12”
Points classification: 1 Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 36 points, 2 D Strakhov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) 32, 3 M Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) 20,
4 S Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 16