Having finished third on the opening stage on Thursday, Irish rider Sam Bennett stormed home to win stage two of the Arctic Race of Norway yesterday.
The Bora-Argon 18 man was quickest in the sprint to the line that decided the 155km trek from Evenskjer to Setermoen.
Putting in a stunning turn of speed in the last 100 metres, he took victory from Frederico Zurlo of Unitedhealthcare and the opening stage winner and the home favourite Alexander Kristoff (Katusha).
Kristoff maintains his overall lead in the race with Bennett still leading the young riders’ classification.
The Irish speedster took that jersey thanks to his third place in the sprint for victory on stage 1.
“I felt absolutely terrible all day and actually I considered during the stage not to sprint. But the guys convinced me to try and they did an absolutely fantastic lead out,” he said afterwards.
“When I lost the wheel on a fast downhill part before the sprint I was disappointed but again I didn’t want to let the guys down after such a good lead out.
“I kept going and just found enough room to go for it. Big thanks to everyone in the team,” he said.
Indeed, it was a tremendous team effort and one of the team’s sporting directors Andre Schulze will be hoping they can replicate the win.
“Again, we have completely focused on Sam and the guys supported him extremely well in the finale.
“The finish line was very long and therefore it was important to save energy until the very end. Sam gambled a bit and actually I thought he was too far behind. But then with 100 meters the door opened.
“He rode an easy sprint and won confidently. Sam was simply the fastest on the final meters. Our goal was to win a stage and that’s what we’ve achieved now and there is more for Sam in this race,” he said.
Yesterday’s result, coupled with his podium finish the day before, puts to bed any concern that Bennett’s ride in the Tour de France last month may take some time to recover from.
Bennett was forced to withdraw on stage 17 but that low point for the Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary man now looks like a distant memory following his rides on the opening two stages of his first race back.
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