Sam Bennett scored his seventh victory of 2019 when he won Tuesday’s stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
The Bora-Hansgrohe rider opened up the bunch sprint early in Riom, and powered home to take the third stage of the race ahead of Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Davide Ballerini (Astana).
It was a commanding performance by the Irishman who was led out at the front of the pack with a late surge by team mate Shane Archbold.
“I always find it harder when I’m the point of reference in the sprint,” said Bennett. “At the last moment I told Shane that I was still feeling good.”
Kicking from over 250m to go, Bennett carried on pulling away until the line.
“The only way was to accelerate pretty early but, on this terrain, Bennett is too strong for me,” said Van Aert. “It’s […] a good result for me to come second in this bunch sprint.”
With only four cat. 4 climbs and an uncomplicated flat run-in to the finish, the 177km leg from Le Puy-en-Velay, north through central France, was always going to be a day for the sprinters – particularly amongst all the other lumps and bumps of this year’s Dauphiné.
Nonetheless, Eritrean Natnael Berhane (Cofidis) and Quentin Pacher (Vital Concept-B&B) from the home nation made the early break, attacking at kilometre zero and soon opening up a lead of around 4-minutes.
From as far as 130km remaining, the gap started coming down under a steady tempo set by the sprinters’ teams. The front pair were caught with 12km to go.
A couple of small dramas livened things up in the final 20km: a puncture for Decueninck-Quick Steps’s sprinter Álvaro Hodeg and a touch of wheels for Katusha’s Ruben Guerreiro, that would see him abandon the race. But otherwise, the finish was a formality.
Katusha, Deceuninck, Jumbo and Dimension Data all attempted to position their riders approaching the finish town. After a sudden lull under the kilometer kite, birthday boy Julian Alaphilippe took it upon himself to lead into the final 500m before Bora-Hansgrohe took over.
Although his first ever win at the Dauphiné, Bennett has also won stages this year in the Tour of Turkey, Paris-Nice, the UAE Tour and the Vuelta a San Juan.
“I’m trying to get a stage win at every stage race I take part in,” said Bennett. “Only at the Tour de Romandie I didn’t this year.”
Wednesday’s fourth stage of the Dauphiné will be a 26.1km time trial in Roanne.