By Stephen Barry
Much of the Irish challenge at the Tour de France has centred on Dan Martin (two-time stage runner-up this year) and Nicolas Roche (Road Captain for Chris Froome’s Team Sky).
Yet Sam Bennett has joined the party too, as a sprinter with Bora-Argon, and despite a 10th-place finish in stage 7, Bennett has found himself struggling in the Pyrenean mountain stages.
Two-thousand kilometres into the three-week ordeal and he is surviving so far, but came home in last place today to fall to 175th and last place overall in the General Classification.
So rather than the getting the maillot jaune or prix de la combativité, Bennett is to be known as the lanterne rouge, or red lantern.
The name comes from the red light that used be fixed to the back of a train carriage but the last placed cyclist is by no means the least successful, with 23 riders already having abandoned.
Some riders even increased their profile by finishing the race as the lanterne rouge; Wim Vansevenant made history in 2008 by ‘winning’ the lanterne rouge for the third time in a row.
Still, he said after gaining his first lanterne rouge, “Lanterne rouge is not a position you go for, it comes for you.”
Good to see an Irishman leading a classification in #LeTour after today's stage. Sam Bennett is now Laterne Rouge - the last rider on GC!— Julian Canny (@juliancanny) July 17, 2015
Yet, in his first Tour outing, crossing the finish line on the Champs-Élysées would be a huge achievement for the young Carrick-on-Suir cyclist.
Up the road Peter Sagan was left fuming after being edged out by BMC’s Greg van Avermaet for stage victory after a hilly finish.
Chris Froome came home in sixth position, alongside his major rivals, to maintain his two minute and 52 second lead over Tejay van Garderen.