Sam Bennett may not have won the sprint finish in Privas at the Tour de France Wednesday, but he did become the first Irishman in 31 years to wear a leader’s jersey at the race since Sean Kelly in 1989.
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The Deceuninck-Quick-Step sprinter moved into the green of points classification leader after scooping up the day’s intermediate sprint and bagging a handful more in the final bunch kick behind stage-winner Wout van Aert.
“I never had such an experience after a finish,” Bennett told Flo Bikes. “I’m delighted to be in green, but I’m also disappointed that I didn’t win. I think I got so caught up in trying to get green that I almost forgot to just go for the win. I was so focused on being there that I was trying to get the green, of course also trying to win, but it’s like I forgot my killer instincts.”
Bennett has yet to take a stage at the Tour despite having tasted victory at both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.
Having already taken a second-place and a fourth-place finish in this year’s race, the Irish national champion has been quietly harvesting sprint points at every opportunity, now leaving him nine points ahead of “Mr. Green Jersey” Peter Sagan, who has won the classification a record seven times.
“It’s a special moment in my career to hold the green jersey for at least a day,” Bennett said. To follow in their [Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche] footsteps is something quite amazing. I’m really proud to do it and proud to be here in the national champion’s jersey and represent Ireland.”
Going into stage 6 Thursday with a leader’s jersey in their number will provide some consolation for Deceuninck-Quick-Step, who yesterday lost out on another day in yellow after Julian Alaphillipe was controversially given a time penalty and slipped to 16th overall.
Sagan wasn’t fazed by the loss of his green jersey lead after placing fourth in Privas on Wednesday.
“Today, I lost some points and gained some points as well, so it’s OK,” he said. “The Tour de France is still long and we have the climbing stages coming. I have to be relaxed”