Sam Bennett has taken his first ever victory at the Tour Down Under after a hectic and messy sprint in Tanunda, where the race returned after seven years. It also marked his first victory with his new team – Deceuninck – Quick-Step.
Bennett was the first of the fast men to launch the sprint, with around 250 metres to go, and immediately showed his fast turn of legs, dashing to the line and convincingly holding off the charge of his rivals.
“I’d be lying if I’d say I didn’t feel the pressure to get that first win. I am very happy it came today, on the very first stage of the season’s first race, and I can’t thank my incredible teammates enough, because the result is down to their amazing effort”, an over the moon Bennett said after the finish.
The closing kilometres of the stage delivered another Deceuninck – Quick-Step masterpiece, with the team taking the front of the peloton early and bringing Bennett into position on the left side of the road. They then gradually eased off the pace before ramping up the speed again, with the flamme rouge in sight. As soon as Iljo Keisse finished stretching the field out, Shane Archbold took over and opened the way for Michael Mørkøv, whose impeccable lead-out left Bennett in a perfect position.
The Irish Champion blasted clear of the pack and put a bike length between him and runner-up Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates). As a result, Bennett made repeated trips to the podium, collecting the winner’s trophy as well as the ochre and blue jerseys.
“The team is very confident in me and the way they rode was amazing and gave me great confidence. There’s a lot of experience in this squad, and they showed it today, together with that unique Wolfpack spirit, which you can feel it immediately. Everybody did a fantastic job and played a superb role, keeping me in position and making sure I was where I had to be in order to fight for the victory. The week has just started and I hope other good results will soon follow”, said the first Irishman in history to lead the Tour Down Under general classification.