Sam Bennett sprints clear to 50th career win at UAE Tour

Irish rider broke away to cross the line first on stage four at Al Marjan Island

Ireland’s Sam Bennett celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the fourth stage of the UAE tour, a sprint stage in Al Marjan Island, in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP

Ireland’s Sam Bennett celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the fourth stage of the UAE tour, a sprint stage in Al Marjan Island, in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP

 

A case of third time lucky strike in the desert perhaps, Sam Bennett ending his chase for that 50th win of his professional career with a superb bunch sprint victory on stage four of the UAE Tour.

It was as clear as they come too, Bennett timing his run and line to perfection, coming off the left of the bunch sprint to win decisively after the 204km flat stage starting and finishing at Al Marjan Island.

The Irish rider was twice denied that 50th career win at the end of last season, beaten by the width of his front tyre in the final stage of the Vuelta a España in Madrid last November, having also being relegated after winning Stage 9 due to some illegal sprint tactics.

Having already won Stage 4 in that race, plus two stages in the Tour de France, Bennett went to the UAE, the first stop on the UCI tour of 2021, just one victory shy of number 50; he was caught out by an early breakaway in the crosswinds of Sunday’s opening stage, before stage 4 presented itself as the first full bunch sprint of the race.

Finishing over one long sweeping flat turn over the last 3km, his Deceuninck-QuickStep team-mates, led by Michael Morkov, positioned Bennett exactly where he wanted to be, only it wasn’t a straightforward line, Bennett then breaking off to the left to win by a full bike length from rising Dutch star of David Dekker of Jumbo Visma and his old Australian Caleb Ewan from Lotto Soudal.

Bennett’s former team mate Pascal Ackermann of Bora-Hansgrohe, who took the win on that final stage in Madrid, faded as the line approached and finished sixth, with Elia Viviani of Cofidis finishing fourth, all allowing Bennett time to raise his right arm in triumph.

“Feels really good,” he said. “I had to wait a few days to get this opportunity, and I think I was really nervous just before the sprint, just because it was my first bunch sprint of the season.

“But all I had to do was follow my guys again, they did a fantastic job each one of them, and I was really proud to finish off the job today, because I think today is my 50th professional win, so it’s really nice to get that first win of the season, and I’d like to thank my team makes for the great job they did today.”

If finished after four hours and 51 minutes in the saddle, although Bennett is well familiar with the hot desert terrain: he also won the final stage here in 2019 into Dubai Safari Park, also finishing fourth on Stage 5 that year.

The peloton remained bunched until 110km, when a French breakaway of Olivier Le Gac and François Bidard joined forces to open at two minute gap, before the peloton was all back together again with 30km to go. In the race for the overall, Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates retained his overall lead of 43 seconds over Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers).

Bennett’s first win in the professional ranks came with a win back in 2013 in Stage 5 the Tour of Britain; the Irish rider has been racking up the professional wins every year since - three in 2014, five in 2015, three in 2016, 10 in 2017, seven in 2018, 13 in 2019 and seven in 2020, including two in the Tour de France. In all, Bennett had 20 top-10 finishes last year.

Thursday’s stage 5 is the second summit finish of the race, on Jebel Jaism, before Bennett gets the chance for two more likely bunch sprint finishes on Friday and then Saturday’s final stage at Abu Dhabi Breakwater.

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