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Sam Bennett claims back-to-back stage wins at the Vuelta a Espana
The Irishman has won the opening two sprint stages for BORA-hansgrohe.

IRELAND’S SAM BENNETT made it back-to-back stage wins at the Vuelta a Espana with a textbook victory in Sunday’s sprint finish to stage three in Breda.

After winning the opening sprint stage on Saturday, Bennett doubled down in a perfect start to this year’s race.

Off the back of a perfect lead-out from BORA-hansgrohe team-mate Danny van Poppel, Bennett held off Mads Pedersen and Dan McLay to win decisively by three-quarters of a bike length.

“For it to happen two days in a row, it’s quite nice,” Bennett said. “This is confidence-boosting, for sure.”

The Carrick-on-Suir rider was quick to pay tribute to his BORA team-mates Van Poppell, Jonas Koch and fellow Irishman Ryan Mullen for their part in a hard-fought victory.

“It was quite hard because I think a lot of people were fighting for our wheel. I think it’s just the natural flow that people start to go up beside me and squeeze me off, so I had a few tough moments just to hold Danny’s wheel.

“It was quite a hard fight. The boys again, what can I say? Jonas riding all day, big thank you for the commitment; the boys then looking after me in the bunch all day, giving me bottles when it was hard.

“Today wasn’t hard watts-wise but there was a lot of accelerations out of corners all day, a really nervous day.

“But again, the job they did in the final — Jonas, even though he was riding all day, came back and did another big turn; Ryan kept us up there taking so much wind; and then Danny, it was a masterclass.”

Bennett’s winning time of 4:05:53 means the peloton rode the almost entirely flat 193.2km run around Breda at around 46kph despite some windy conditions on a cool summer’s day at 20C.

Ineos had a stressful moment when their leader Richard Carapaz fell 20km from the line, but he finished with the main bunch.

Of the favourites to win the overall title, Primoz Roglic of Jumbo is best placed with Carapaz just 13 seconds off the Slovenian’s pace.

Remco Evenepoel, the 22-year-old Belgian, is at 14 seconds while the 2018 Vuelta champion Simon Yates is at 31 seconds and current Giro champion Jai Hindley at 41 seconds.

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Dutch team Jumbo-Visma finished the stage with a third rider in the overall leader’s red jersey with Italy’s Eduardo Affini top of the rankings.

Jumbo won the team time-trial on day one by a clear 13 seconds, and with flat stages suited to bunch sprints over the weekend, were able to set up a situation whereby they passed the overall lead between their team members.

Two Dutch riders from Jumbo took the honours in the first two stages in Robert Gesink and Mike Teunissen.

Another Dutch rider, Julius Van den Berg, retained the climb points jersey.

Now Affini takes the lead as the Vuelta heads home to Spain with a transit Monday and stage four to nine in the Basque Country and Asturias all in rugged hilly or mountainous terrain.

– First published 16.05, 21 August; additional reporting © AFP 2022

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