Sam Bennett claimed 10th place on yesterday’s fifth stage of Paris-Nice, the Irishman unable to emulate Tuesday’s heroic effort where he finished top of the podium at the end of the day.
Yesterday was another afternoon for the sprinters before the race heads for more mountainous terrain and Bennett was among the pre-race favourites starting in Quincie.
However, a massive late crash disrupted his run-in to the finish and he simply had no answer to German powerhouse Andre Greipel who claimed just his second victory in the event.
Greipel, a multiple Grand Tour stage winner, locked onto the wheel of former race leader Arnaud Demare (FDJ) before accelerating past to cross the line with more than a bike length to spare.
Dutch national champion Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) ran Demare close but it was the Frenchman who was awarded second in the photo finish.
Meanwhile, Dan Martin stayed in touch for the overall crown with an assured display, crossing the line in the main bunch thus ensuring he lost no time to those around him in the race for the yellow jersey.
His teammate Julian Alaphilippe leads the way with three stages remaining, 33 seconds clear of fellow Frenchman Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) with Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) a further 14 seconds back and Martin at 1:20.
Today’s stage takes the riders into the high mountains for the first of three climbing days, the first of which is a 193-kilometre trek from Aubagne to Fayence over six categorised climbs.
There’s a category one ramp inside 15 kilometres of the start which should break up the field but it’s another category one summit with 20 kilometres to go that will do most damage.
And as it finishes atop a steep 250-metre category two climb it could be a stage for Martin to challenge for as well as claw back some of the time needed to get on the podium.
Elsewhere, Ryan Mullen had a tough afternoon on stage two of Tirreno-Adriatico, the Cannondale-Drapac man finishing in a large group over 12 minutes down on stage winner Geraint Thomas.
The Welshman was super impressive in how he simply dispatched GC rivals Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Damiano Caruso (BMC) and Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) and crossed the line with nine seconds to spare on runner-up Tom Dumoulin (Team SUnweb).
The win comes a day after the Team Sky were at the centre of a bizarre incident which saw one of their rider’s wheel collapse during the opening time-trial on Wednesday. Italian Gianni Moscon was lucky to avoid more serious injury when he hit the ground after his wheel seemed to disintegrate beneath him. Wheel manufacturers Shimano are investigating the incident.
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