Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) sprinted to his fourth win of the year in Visé, Belgium on Tuesday afternoon on the third stage of the Tour de Wallonie. It was a win he dedicated to his teammates Remco Evenepoel, Fabio Jakobsen and Yves Lampaert, who were all injured in the past two weeks.
The penultimate stage of the race saw five riders – Andreas Goeman (Telenet Baloise Lions), Carlos Canal Blanco (Burgos-BH), Michael Golas (Ineos), Marcel Sieberg (Bahrain McLaren) and Michael Van Staeyen (Tarteletto-Isorex) – attacking early. They gained a maximum lead of five minutes before being reeled in with 40 kilometres to go.
The crucial point of the race turned out to be the Côte de Cheratte (750 metres at 12.5%) and it was here that Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) launched an attack that stretched out the field with his team-mate Zdenek Stybar then going clear with Loic Vliegen (Circus Wanty), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) and Jonathan Narvaez (Team Ineos). The quartet opened a promising 20-second margin inside the last eight kilometres.
A furious chase ensued, but the four looked capable of holding off the remnants of the bunch, only to be hauled back just 500 metres from the finish. That was the cue for Sénéchal to set a searing pace at the front of the group that created a split which left just four men in contention. One of them was Sam Bennett, and the 29-year-old Irishman launched a devastating sprint to take a convincing win over Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) and John Degenkolb (Lotto-Soudal) in Visé.
“This one is for those guys,” Bennett said as he dedicated his win to his team-mates. “Hopefully they have a good recovery and will join the Wolfpack, where they are missed, as soon as possible. It’s good to have some luck again and we hope it will be again on our side after today.”
“I worked really hard the last month and yesterday didn’t reflect that, so I was a bit disappointed. I didn’t expect a big turnaround today, but I just rode and kept fighting over that climb. The team was fantastic, rode incredibly well and I’m so proud of them. The final was harder than yesterday, but I made it and had strong legs in the sprint. I’m happy with this win, one that I really needed with ten days to go until the Tour de France”, Bennett concluded.