A pan flat stage screamed a sprint-battle royale and the man with the fastest wheels and the coolest head was BORA-hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett. The Irishman played it perfectly on the frantic finish. Grabbing Elia Viviani‘s wheel in the blisteringly fast run to the line and waiting forever before kicking again to come around the Italian for his first Grand Tour victory. Niccolo Bonifazio pipped Sacha Modolo for third. Simon Yates finished safely to retain the pink jersey.
Rider of the Race
Today was one of those Giro stages where not much happens before the sprint teams take over in the final 20km. Who can blame the peloton for taking it easy after yesterday’s hard effort, and with more to come at the weekend. I was all set to award the rider of race award to one, or possibly all three of the day’s brave breakaway. Maybe even making up some outrageous fictional stage. But how could it possibly go to anyone else but the Irish sprinter who has spent so long knocking at the door of Grand Tour greatness? Step up and take a bow Sam Bennett – the first Irish Giro stage winner since Stephen Roche in 1987.
Sam seemed doomed to play second fiddle to a Quickstepper speedster at the Giro. In 2017 he posted a second place and three third places, losing the top step of the podium to Fernando Gaviria. This year he’s been in flying form again, finishing third in both the sprint stages in Israel, but just not quite getting his timing right to surpass Viviani.
So what made the difference today? It all came down to a duo of P’s – persistence and patience. He muscled his way onto the coveted wheel of the maglia ciclimino as the Quick-Step train appeared late and fast. Refused to be budged or tempted into opening his sprint early, indeed he even freewheeled to maintain his position. Then, when Viviani hit top gear, he had the power to come around him in the last metres – and that is no mean feat.
I think the hardest thing today was to have patience. I think Quick-Step left it too late. I saw them looking back and checking me, maybe trying to get me to panic and go early again. I kept my cool and it paid off. I feel more relaxed, just a weight is off my shoulders now.
Last word goes to Christian Pomer, the director of BORA-hansgrohe.
Today is a really special day for us, Sam came to us as a Continental rider and grew, as the team, over the years. He was quite often so close to a victory but today was his day.
Tweet of day goes to Mrs Bennett – one proud mother…
Tip of the hat to the chasers
With chances for sprinters as rare as hen’s teeth at this Giro, those teams hoping to play a part at the finish had to keep the break on a short leash. Two riders who caught my eye putting in the work at the front of the peloton were climber Hugh McCarthy for the EF Pinkies and neo-pro Remi Cavagna for Quick-Step.
All the talk among the directeur sportifs on the start line concerned how they could beat Viviani. Truthfully, right up until the last 50m it looked like the Italian was heading for victory number three.
He wasn’t happy with his second place and explains what went wrong in the video below.
He did boss the intermediate sprint points behind the break-of-the-day to tighten his grip on the jersey but he’s a sprinter and of course he likes to win. However, he is also always classy in defeat and we like that.
We often say these days are easy for the riders. No mountains to worry about and just the sprinter teams interested in the finale. Well, not quite. The last 10km saw the peloton touch speeds well in excess of 78km per hour as the sprint teams fought for dominance and the GC teams were desperate to keep their leaders out of trouble. Barrelling into a technical finale where everyone wanted to be first into some tight corners, they were also expected to navigate a dark tunnel. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one sending a prayer to the cycling Gods that everyone made it through safely.
GC favourites roundup
Simon Yates enjoyed his first day leading a Grand Tour…
The only change within the top ten was Movistar’s Carlos Betancur. who lost 23 seconds due to a late mechanical and tumbled to 15th.
1 Sam Bennett (BORA-hansgrohe) 3:45:27
2 Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) same time
3 Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-merida) s/t
4 Sacha Modolo (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale) s/t
5 Danny van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) s/t
GC Top 5
1 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 26:31:30
2 Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) +0:16
3 Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) +0:26
4 Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrian-Merida) +0:43
5 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +0:45
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
Points jersey: Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors)
KOM jersey: Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott)
Best young rider: Richard Carapaz (Movistar)
For full review of the stage, go to Cycling News
Header Image: Sam Bennett – LUK BENIES/AFP/Getty Images