Sam Bennett (BORA – hansgrohe) took his first victory in his Irish champion’s jersey when he won today’s opening stage of the Binck Bank Tour. The Irishman won the stage in a sprint ahead of Edward Theuns (Trek – Segafredo) and Mike Teunissen (Team Jumbo-Visma).
The flat first stage of the race was tailor-made for the fast men of the peloton. The riders traversed 167.2 flat kilometres from Beveren in the Belgian province of East Flanders, to Hulst in the southwest of the Netherlands.
Like all of this year’s stages, with the exception of the ITT, today’s stage featured a Golden Kilometre containing three intermediate sprints within a distance of only 1000m as well as time bonuses of 3, 2, and 1 seconds. The second half the stage was made more challenging by six cobbled sections.
Not long after the start, a group of four was able to escape, yet their lead grew to no more than 2:30. Rainy conditions during the second half of the race made for a difficult race, and the peloton ultimately split into several groups. Irish champion Sam Bennett remained attentive and managed to make the cut into the first group with some teammates.
The sprinters’ teams were sure to not gift the break any chances to take the win, and as a result of the pace setting that was meted out, the distance to the leading quartet began to be whittled down. The race came together again, and with less than 30 kilometres remaining, several sprinters’ teams came to the front to share the pace setting duties and close the gap to the leaders.
The catch was eventually made with a few kilometres remaining in the race. Two kilometres ahead of the finish line, Bennett positioned himself on the wheel of Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) and waited until the ideal moment to launch his sprint. In the last metres, he was able to overtake Theuns and Theunissen, to net his ninth victory this season, and his first in the Irish national champion’s jersey. With his win, he also leads the points classification as well as the overall standings by a margin of 2 seconds.
Sam Bennett – “I’m really happy to get my first win in the Irish Champion’s jersey here. It was a bit dangerous today with the rain, and I skidded a couple of times, but everything ended up ok. The guys put me in a good position in the finale, and I tried to keep this position over the last two kilometres. Then I got behind one of the sprint trains and then I launched my sprint at the right moment. I have a special connection with Belgium and I am particularly happy about this win because it is always difficult to win at this race.”