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Bennett in hunt for Tour de France green jersey as he pulls level with sprint leader Sagan

The Irishman and the Slovakian are locked on 83 points after Bennett racked up intermediate sprint points halfway through stage four.

Ireland's Sam Bennett.
Ireland's Sam Bennett.
Image: David Stockman

IRELAND’S SAM BENNETT is right in the mix for the green jersey at the Tour de France after an explosive performance midway through stage four saw him pull level with sprint leader and perennial winner Peter Sagan of Slovakia.

Sagan has donned the green of the best overall sprinter at seven of the last eight Tours, but for the first time in several years it appears as though he will face stiff competition in the shape of his former Bora-Hansgrohe team-mate.

Carrick-on-Suir native Bennett, now riding for Deceuninck–Quick-Step, narrowly missed out on yesterday’s third stage as he was pipped by Australian Caleb Ewan. But after racking up intermediate sprint points at the halfway mark of stage four, Bennett has drawn level with Sagan on 83.

Before the race runs through the Pyrenees this weekend, there are two flat stages during which Bennett will seek to rip the green from Sagan going into the second half of this year’s event.

correction-france-cycling-tour-de-france France’s Julian Alaphilippe celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the fourth stage of the Tour de France. Source: Christophe Ena

In the battle for overall victory, Primoz Roglic laid down a marker to his rivals with a win on stage four as Julian Alaphilippe retained the yellow jersey.

Roglic was seen as favourite in this year’s Tour before suffering injuries in a crash at the Criterium du Dauphine last month, but appeared untroubled as he sprang forward to take the win at Orcieres-Merlette.

Alaphilippe and Britain’s Adam Yates were part of the chasing group who followed Roglic over the line to ensure no change at the top of the standings, in which Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Alaphilippe leads Yates of Mitchelton-Scott by four seconds.

But Roglic is now only seven seconds behind, and this performance will be seen as a sign that he has carried over the form which saw him leading in the Dauphine before he withdrew ahead of the final stage.

“It was quite a hard day actually, quite hot, but the guys did again a really good job, I was all the time in a good position and at the end I could do a good sprint,” the Slovenian said.

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Asked if he had hoped the victory would come with the yellow jersey, he added: “I have to accept it, I don’t really care. It was a nice day, we stayed safe at the end, we win which is even better and we have to continue like that.

“I’m coming back [from injury]. We see that I am still coming back and now I can race every day feeling even better.”

The 160.5km stage from Sisteron saw the Tour dip a toe into the Alps unusually early and cap it with a summit finish, though the final climb was not one to compare with those to come in the final week of this race.

Instead the steady gradient was taken at high speed as Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma team controlled from the front, ensuring attacks were kept to a minimum until the road began to level out near the top.

Cofidis’ Guillaume Martin tried a move with 500 metres to go, sparking the others into life. Roglic quickly showed he had the most left in the tank, leaving defending champion Egan Bernal in his wake as the Colombian came home seventh ahead of Yates in 10th.

Bernal remains sixth overall, now 17 seconds off Alaphilippe in yellow. But Richard Carapaz – Ineos Grenadiers’ plan B should Bernal falter – could not keep up with the lead group and lost 28 seconds to slip to 21st overall.

– This article was amended at 19:10 to correct an error regarding Peter Sagan’s nationality. He is Slovakian, not Czech as previously stated.

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