Sam Bennett made it two wins in as many days for the Irish at the Vuelta a Espana when he blitzed the field to win the fourth stage into the town of Ejea de los Caballeros, north of Zaragoza.
The 29-year-old Carrick-on-Suir man emulated compatriot Dan Martin’s win from 24 hours earlier by claiming a thrilling bunch sprint at the end of 191 rather flat kilometres.
Bennett came into the stage as the red-hot favourite following his Tour de France heroics last month where he won two stages and the green jersey classification, but he made light of that pressure.
'Talk about late timing! Talk about a game of poker!' 😅@Sammmy_Be wins Stage 4 with a brilliant sprint finish! 💪— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) October 23, 2020
📺 Eurosport 2
📱💻 Uninterrupted coverage: https://t.co/v9sW4iRk9W pic.twitter.com/uGMfSPaHD7
He benefited from an exemplary lead-out from his Deceuninck-QuickStep team that set a ferocious pace on the run-in to the finish, giving him somewhat of an armchair ride into the final few hundred metres.
“We said we needed to be together at one point,” explained Bennett at the finish, “and at that point the team was all there. They did the job perfectly, we came together when we needed to. And it was even more [riders] than we asked to be there, we only asked for a few guys, and the whole team was there to support me. I’d like to thank all the guys, they did a fantastic job.”
Their good work was nearly disrupted by runner-up Jasper Philipsen (UAE Emirates), however, who launched his sprint early and was caught by the Irishman only meters from the finish line.
What a finish from @Sammmy_Be 👏— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) October 23, 2020
He becomes just the fourth 🇮🇪 rider to have won stages of two Grand Tours in the same year 🙌
2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣0️⃣ - Sam Bennett
1️⃣9️⃣8️⃣7️⃣ - Stephen Roche
1️⃣9️⃣8️⃣0️⃣ - Sean Kelly
1️⃣9️⃣6️⃣3️⃣ - Shay Elliott pic.twitter.com/0EnoLK5zOU
“Jasper Philipsen came on the inside and got a jump, and I actually really didn’t believe I was going to catch him. I started getting more and more speed towards the end and I was still accelerating towards the line, so I had the power. But when he initially went, he was explosive around the corner that I didn’t know if I could catch him.”
Dan Martin finished safely in the bunch in the same time as Bennett, meaning he’s still second on general classification at five seconds heading into Saturday’s fifth stage.
That will be a rather lumpy affair which won’t be to Bennett’s liking, though it’s likely Martin will keep his powder dry for Sunday’s mountainous stage where he will once again look to take the five seconds he needs on race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) to usurp the Slovenian of the red jersey.