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Vuelta a Espana

Sam Bennett: Vuelta a España stage win should be the turning point

Irishman’s second win of season removes some pressure but the points jersey hunter says there’s still more to come.

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UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) – Sam Bennett was happy to be back to winning ways on stage 2 of the Vuelta a España in Utrecht, but don’t call it a comeback just yet.

“I’m close, but I think this Vuelta will be the key to bringing me back to my top level,” the Bora-Hansgrohe fast man said.

“To have that hard racing, to get that real strength and depth, that’s what I’m looking for: to be really consistent,” he said. “But I think now should be the turning point.”

This is his first grand tour since the 2020 Vuelta a España, where he took a stage. That was preceded by a Tour de France where he finished with two stages and the green jersey.

Legs over head

It is only Bennett’s second victory of the year after Eschborn-Frankfurt in May following fourteen months blighted by a knee injury and its after-effects.

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For the thoughtful Irishman, it was a question of body over mind.

“I think legs are more important for me than the head, so I hope they will come good. I know how to win bike races, I know how to get there, I know what to do,” he said Saturday morning.

So it proved. After a nervy day riding through teeming crowds of Dutch fans between Den Bosch and Utrecht, his legs were up to the task. He outsprinted Mads Pedersen and Tim Merlier on the outskirts of the Dutch city.

“It was one of those days where everything clicked. I think I’m still a little bit off my best but my teammates made a difference today, they’re really fantastic,” Bennett said.

“Even the GC guys helped me more in the crosswinds, even Wilco [Kelderman] and Jonas [Koch] coming into the intermediate, Ryan [Mullen] especially in the intermediate.

“Ryan and [leadout man] Danny [Van Poppel] in the finale: I don’t know how he finds those gaps but he hasn’t ever got it wrong yet. He was incredible, he carried so much speed.”

Keen on green

(Photo by Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

Bennett will race tomorrow in the green jersey of points classification leader, one he’d love to wear and win in Madrid at the race’s conclusion.

“The DS came to the [hotel] rooms and talked about what you want from the race, and I said ‘do you mind if I go for the green as well?’

“I don’t know if they were expecting me to go for more than just stages. They said ‘go for it, try and use minimal effort, but absolutely no problem.’

“I went into the stage with that in the back of my mind, we’ll try and continue going for that as well. The most important thing was to get the stage win first. Now we have that, we can really go for the points jersey.”

Bennett’s next opportunity to win again and extend his lead comes on Sunday, with the 193.2km stage 3 starting and finishing in the Dutch city of Breda.