Ireland's Tour de France double stage winner from last year, Sam Bennett, made it six wins for the season with another trademark finish to take the opening stage of the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal.
The Carrick-on-Suir sprinter was too quick for Danny Van Poppel (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux) and Jon Aberasturi (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) at the end of Wednesday's opener and by virtue of winning on day one, Bennett also takes the first race leader’s jersey of the five-day contest.
Having not pinned on numbers for the last month, the Irishman came into the race a little undercooked but used all his experience to carry the day, profiting once again from a textbook leadout by his Deceuninck-Quick Step teammates.
“I’m pretty happy,” said Bennett at the finish. “I didn’t know how good the legs were going to be coming into this race after a short break. I was on the limit today, but the team did an incredible job. Even when they came down in crashes, they adapted to the situation and were able to do a fantastic job.
“I just had to stay alert and try and stay upright,” explained Bennett in regards to the tense finale.
“I put my trust in my teammates when they came back in the last 2k. It was hard in the end, my legs were kinda spent, but I managed to pull it off.”
Despite winning the sprint comfortably ahead of Van Poppel, Bennett revealed that he actually didn’t feel very strong in the sprint, and felt as though he was lacking his best legs following a break from racing.
“I have a lot of work to do after the sensations I got today. But it was a boost of confidence as I could still finish the job off.”