It’s been a weekend of carnage and chaos — as well as contrasting fortunes for the Irish duo on the opening weekend of the Tour de France.
While general classification hopeful Dan Martin is lurking with intent in 10th overall just 14 seconds off the race lead, it’s an entirely different scenario for Sam Bennett who is last in the standings.
Bennett crashed hard in the final few hundred metres of Saturday’s first stage and such were his injuries he was touch and go to start yesterday.
He did take to the start-line in Saint Lo but by the finish in Cherbourg 183km later, he had conceded over 16 minutes to stage winner and new race leader Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).
“The barriers came in real sharp,” Bennett explained of that massive spill that took down several riders on Saturday.
“Then too guys got tangled up and ended up on the ground in front of me.
“I just couldn’t react in time.
“Coming in at that speed, we shouldn’t have to worry about things like that. It is too dangerous, but nothing has been done.”
He shredded his hand pretty badly and said he could see bone coming out through the broken skin — but somehow, nothing was broken.
Others who crashed on Saturday were three-time champion and top favourite Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) as well as Geraint Thomas (Team Sky). The former crashed again yesterday and slipped further down the general classification.
But moving up was Irishman Martin who was fourth across the line after being beaten in the uphill sprint by stage winner and reigning world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), runner-up and teammate Julian Alaphilippe as well as Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde.
Martin was around a bike length further back on a day that saw some of the top general classification contenders see their hopes of winning the race severely dented.
Chief among those to concede significant time were Richie Porte (BMC Racing Team) and the aforementioned Contador.
The latter came into the stage sporting heavy bandaging on his shoulder following Saturday’s heavy fall and he hit the deck again yesterday around 60 kilometres in.
He would cross the line 48 seconds behind stage winner and new race leader Sagan and is now 1:02 down overall on the Slovak.
Porte punctured with 4.5km to go and he never regained contact with the main field as they were racing absolutely flat-out at that point.
Incidentally, it had been his team who were doing much of the driving when he punctured and that is cruel luck on him. He lost 1:45 and is now 81st overall, 1:59 down.
For Martin, it was all about going for the stage win or failing that, losing no major time to his rivals.
And though he didn’t take victory, he achieved the second objective.
He did so with the help of his Etixx-QuickStep teammates who shepherded him towards the front of the race in the final 30 kilometres as the pace was really ramping up.
Martin stayed right towards the head of affairs in the final and looked really good as the road began to rise up to the finish in Cherbourg.
As he has done so often in the past he sneaked his way right into contention before launching his sprint.
It wasn’t quite good enough for him to win – but was good enough to see him make the top 10 overall.
Bennett (Bora Argon 18), meanwhile, battled through a savage day and was last over the line in 198th after losing over 16 minutes.
But given the injuries he sustained, yesterday was all about surviving the time cut, which he managed to do.
Today and tomorrow are two brutally long days; 223 and 237 kilometres respectively but they are relatively flat. Time will tell how Bennett recovers from his injuries and what kind of condition he can be in.
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