Sam Bennett remains on course for Belgium Tour points jersey

Dan Martin announces switch to Israel Cycling Academy team for 2020

Sam Bennett went close to taking his fourth stage win in five days at the BinckBank Tour in Belgium on Friday, just coming up short at the finish in Venray.

Bennett had been boxed in during a hectic finale and was delayed in launching his sprint. Rival Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep) had a much simpler run to the line and built an advantage that Bennett couldn't quite overcome in time.

The Irish rider finished half a bike length off what would have been his 12th victory of the year. “The guys did an amazing job to bring the stage to a bunch sprint, and they looked after me very well in the finale as well,” he said.

“At the one km mark, I decided to go it alone. I saw that Deceuninck-Quickstep was very well organised, so I tried to follow them. However, I didn’t want to take any risks along the barriers, so I couldn’t get out from behind with enough time to go. I only managed to do so in the last 50 to 100m. However, second place is still a very decent result, and I’ve got to be happy with that.”


Bennett’s second place saw him further extend a very solid lead in the points classification. He has clocked up 115 points, far ahead of the 73 of Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma). With the race ending on Sunday, Bennett looks set to win that contest.

Meanwhile Dan Martin has announced a move to the Israel Cycling Academy team for 2020, thus ending a two-year stint with the UAE Team Emirates squad. Martin was understood to be frustrated with the latter during this year's Tour de France, due to issues relating to the nutrition sponsors. He felt his performance was hampered as a result, and this increased the likelihood of him heading elsewhere.

“I feel it’s time for me to step into a new and exciting challenge,” said Martin.

“Not only will I be able to help this great project reach its exciting goals, but also a great opportunity for me to refresh myself and improve further. ICA has shown huge confidence in me, so together we can create something truly special to improve across the board.

“I have not reached my peak and I strongly believe that the best is yet to come for ICA and myself.

“By joining ICA, our joint goal is to combine our huge appetite for success and to achieve our potential together. I have so much respect for what ICA want to achieve. I just want to be part of it.”

Martin has won two Tour de France stages, the Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia Classics and many other races. He is the biggest signing the team has made thus far. It currently competes at the Pro Continental level, one step below the WorldTour level Martin has competed at for several years, but is chasing a WorldTour licence. The team co-owner Sylvan Adams knows that signing the Irish climber will help it move towards that goal.

“Martin is a bonafide star of our sport and we hope to support him towards many victories next season,” he said. “Dan is a true professional who will be great asset to our team. He has proven that he can win single day events as well as stage races. Welcome to Israel Cycling Academy. [We are]looking forward to next year.”

BinckBank Tour, Belgium (WorldTour)

Stage 5, Riemst to Venray: 1, Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 191.4 kilometres in 3 hours 54 mins 48 secs; 2, S. Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe); 3, E. Theuns (Trek-Segafredo); 4, T. Dupont (Wanty-Gobert); 5, A. Demare (Groupama-FDJ); 6, K. Halvorsen (Team Ineos) all same time

General classification after stage 5: 1, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) 17 hours 27 mins 45 secs; 2, M. Hirschi (Team Sunweb) at 4 secs; 3, L. De Plus (Team Jumbo-Visma) at 14 secs; 4, I. Garcia (Bahrain-Merida) at 25 secs; 5, O. Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) at 28 secs; 6, M. Teunissen (Team Jumbo-Visma) at 34 secs

Irish: 76, S. Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) at 14 mins 36 secs

Points classification: 1, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 115 pts; 2, D. Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) 73; 3, J. Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) 66

Teams classification: 1, Team Sunweb, 52 hours 24 mins 36 secs; 2, Lotto Soudal, at 2 mins; 3, Team Jumbo-Visma, at 2 mins 5 secs

Other: 11, Bora-Hansgrohe, at 14 mins 43 secs

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling