The last time we saw Sam Bennett was on the Champs Elysees, green bike raised above his green head, having won the concluding sprint of the Tour de France to win the Green Jersey.
As moments go that’s tough to beat. Career defining. Had he never won another bike race he could retire a success. We would certainly have forgiven him following up that big day with a big few weeks of drinking Guinness and enjoying the craic. Easing off and piling a few pounds on.
Based on today, he’s done nothing of the sort.
After three stages of chaotic disruption, day four at the Vuelta gave us something more standard. The stage to Numancia, though lumpy and bumpy in places, was as flat you’ll get in this race. Your classic four-man breakaway group was given a standard issue four-minute lead; regulation stuff.Embed from Getty Images
The race then rumbled through the countryside for a couple of hours, in control, a sprint finish on everyone’s mind. Sure, we enjoyed watching the two BH-Burgos riders carry out their contractual obligation to “be on the telly as much as possible”: Willie Smit and Jesus Ezquerrra from the small Spanish team doing a stirling job as doomed cannon fodder.
Smit, in particularly, gurned spectacularly and gave it the full “ahh, man, I’m so disappointed” upon the catch, as Numancia appeared on the horizon.
Break caught, and still several kilometres from the finish, the helicopter camera panned out to show us a wide, arrow-straight road into town. A small tailwind on their backs, the peloton scorched along at sixty-kilometres an hour; too fast for even the most-foolhardy to attempt a late guerrilla lurch for the line.
Today, as sure as eggs are eggs, was a sprint finish.
Ok Sam, cards on table…just how lairy did the post-Tour celebrations get?
Into town, now screaming along at seventy kilometres an hour, Bennett’s Quickstep crew were firmly on the front. One-by-one and in total control. Around the final bend, and BOOM! Phillipsen…Jasper Philipsen, of Team UAE, clear, like a peak-era Michael Johnson off the final bend in the four hundred metres…and gone.
Seven, eight metres clear.Embed from Getty Images
Bennett reacts like a Dublin barfly at the call of last orders. A big step on the gas, that massive sprint unfurled, and the gap is down to five, three, one…still accelerating…crosses the line…from MILES back!
It’s a win for Bennett, Ireland, Deceuninck-Quickstep, and for not overdoing it on the old black stuff.
Good things come to those who wait, as they say.