Sam Bennett stays confident with his second stage win in Turkey
Cycling: Irish rider beats Argentinian Maximiliano Richeze to extend his overall lead
Sam Bennett: ‘I thought it would be harder on the climb but I was actually comfortable.’ Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Sam Bennett blasted to his second consecutive stage win in the Presidential Tour of Turkey on Thursday, showing confidence in extending his overall lead. Bennett underlined his versatility by staying in contact with the main bunch when it was thinned down by a climb close to the finish, remaining in contention as other sprinters were dropped. He then calmly positioned himself in the optimum position for the ensuing gallop.
He came off the wheel of Quick-Step Floors rival Maximiliano Richeze, beating the Argentinian for the win. Former Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) was third.
“I thought it would be harder on the climb but I was actually comfortable,” said Bennett, speaking about the same solid climbing ability he displayed during this year’s Giro d’Italia. “They only went hard in the last 500 metres and I could hang on for that. The descent was pretty fast. A lot of guys came back when I thought maybe they wouldn’t.
“It was a hard fight for the wheels then, but my guys did a great job and looked after me all day, on the climb as well.”
Positioning was a key element in his victory. “I was on the Quick-Step train again in the last 500 metres,” he said. “There was a slight hesitation at 220 to 230 metres to go and I decided to hit it instead of letting guys come over the top of me. At that moment I thought, maybe I’ve gone too long here, but I was able to hold onto it so I’m delighted.”
The other Irish rider in the race, Nicolas Roche, was one of the key aggressors on that final climb. He and others got a gap, but they were hauled back prior to the big sprint. Still, Roche’s move shows that he is in good form prior to Friday’s important uphill finish at Selçuk, close to the historic temple at Ephesus.
Bennett’s second consecutive victory pads his overall lead in the event. He is now 10 seconds clear of Richeze and 22 ahead of Degenkolb, with Roche a further four seconds back.
However, the tough nature of Friday’s finish means that he will lose the race lead. In contrast, Roche’s superior climbing abilities means that he should leap up the overall standings.
Bennett’s priority is adding to his stage win tally, and he will likely have two more opportunities. Saturday’s stage to Manisa and Sunday’s race to Istanbul could come down to big sprints, giving him a chance to equal his total of four stage wins from last year.
He also leads the sprint classification and will grab the chance to win that competition after losing out due to a crash 12 months ago.
Presidential Tour of Turkey (WorldTour)
Stage 3, Fethiye to Marmaris: 1, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 137.2 kilometres in 3 hours 16 mins 27 secs; 2, M Richeze (Quick-Step Floors); 3, J Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo); 4, P Bevin (BMC Racing Team); 5, A Orken (Turkish National Team); 6, I Garcia (Bahrain-Merida)
Other Irish: 49, N Roche (BMC Racing Team)
General classification after stage 3: 1, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 10 hours 9 mins 52 secs; 2, M Richeze (Quick-Step Floors) at 10 secs; 3, J Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) at 22 secs; 4, JP Drucker (BMC Racing Team) at same time; 5, T Sprengers (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) at 23 secs; 6, J Zabala Lopez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) at 24 secs
Other Irish: 42, Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing Team) at 26 secs
Point classification: 1, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 44 points; 2, M Richeze (Quick-Step Floors) 29; 3, A Hodeg (Quick-Step Floors) 26; 4, JP Drucker (BMC Racing Team) 25; 5, S Consonni (UAE Team Emirates) 23; 6, J Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) 22