With a perfectly timed sprint, Sam Bennett confidently took the 3rd stage at Paris – Nice which was both the first ever WorldTour win for the Irish sprinter and his BORA–hansgrohe team.
It was the biggest win of the 26-year-old’s career as he beat Norway’s Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin), Germany’s John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors) while Australia’s Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) was fifth.
Three riders broke clear near the start – Pierre-Roger Latour (Ag2R), Benjamin King (Dimension Data) and Romain Combaud (Delko-Marseille) – and they gained a maximum lead of nearly seven minutes. At that stage, the sprinters’ teams took control and started to reduce the gap.
At the second and last KOM of the day, and with 25 kilometres remaining, the gap was just one minute. At 3 kilometres to go, the pack was back together and everything was set for a bunch sprint.
Katusha and Quick Step were to the front inside the last kilometre working for Kristoff and Kittel as race leader Arnaud Demaré found himself blocked near the barriers on the left side of the road. However, none of them could react when Bennett produced his effort, surging with 150 metres left to outwit the opposition and score his first biggest win.
Sam Bennett – “I chased that first WorldTour win quite a while and I feel big relief now. The boys did an awesome job. First Michael and Juraj brought me up and then with 500m to go Patrick came also from behind with lots of speed. I was able to jump on his wheel and with that momentum I was perfectly placed with 300m to go. I launched my sprint at 200m and I always felt I could win. It is just a great feeling now to have that win under my belt.
“I suffered a lot last year in the Tour de France after my crash in the first stage, but I did hang on and rode all the way until Paris. To finish that Grand Tour I think brought me to another level.”