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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España stage 3: Sam Bennett doubles up with sprint victory

Mads Pedersen finishes second for the second day in a row as Edoardo Affini takes red jersey for Jumbo-Visma.

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Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) proved best for a second day in a row at the Vuelta a España, winning the bunch sprint into Breda. Showing the increased confidence a victory brings, he launched early from the leadout of teammate Danny van Poppel and again beat Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) to the line.

Dan McLay (Arkéa Samsic) was third, while Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) and Fabian Lienhard (Groupama-FDJ) filled out the top five.

Race leader Mike Teunissen didn’t sprint, deciding instead to ride in the closing kilometers to keep Primož Roglič safe. Teammate Edoardo Affini was best placed of the team and became next to benefit from the Jumbo-Visma passing of the parcel, inheriting the red jersey.

The stage was flat but had one categorized climb, inspiring King of the Mountains leader Julius van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost) to clip away at the start and knuckle down with six others.

They opened a maximum lead of about three minutes, with Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) picking up both the King of the Mountains prime and the intermediate sprint. Van den Berg was second on the climb and kept his jersey. The break was finally caught with just over 11km remaining, with the sprinters’ teams then sweeping forward to set their fastmen up.

Bennett was marked out as the favorite after Saturday’s stage and was tracked by his rivals. This made things a little more complicated for him.

“It was quite hard because I think a lot of people were fighting for our wheel,” he said. “I think it is just a 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. So it was quite a hard fight.

“The boys again, what can I say… Jonas [Koch] riding all day … a big thank you for the commitment. The boys looking after me in the bunch all day, they gave me bottles when it was hard.

“It wasn’t a hard day watts-wise, but there were a lot of accelerations out of the corners all the day, a really nervous day. Again, the job they did in the final … Jonas, even though he was riding all day, came back and did another big turn. Ryan [Mullen] kept us up there, taking so much wind, and then Danny … it was a masterclass.”

Bennett was asked if it was important to land another win so soon in order to confirm his strong form.

“I think so,” he replied, encouraged after what was a long period full of frustrations. “For it to happen two days in a row was quite nice.

“This is confidence boosting, for sure…”

Bennett may have to wait a little while to challenge for number three. The Vuelta will see a rest day Monday as the peloton transitions to Spain for a series of tough hilly stages in the north. Tuesday’s stage is lumpy rather than mountainous, but the bunch could be thinned out before the line.

Another day, another breakaway

Stage 3 of the Vuelta a España started and finished in Breda and was yet another flat one, courtesy of the Dutch terrain, but it did have one category four climb. The ascent of Rijzendeweg was 400 meters long and 3.7 percent in gradient, and topped out at a towering 25 meters above sea level.

The stage was 193.5km in length and included a bonus sprint some 23km from the line.

Like Saturday’s stage, King of the Mountains leader van den Berg went on the attack from the start and sparked off a breakaway group of seven. Also there were De Gendt, Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH), Pau Miquel (Kern Pharma), Mikel Iturria (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Jose Herrada (Cofidis). After seven kilometers they already had 1’10 on the bunch.

(Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

The break was working hard and averaged 46.8km for the opening hour, establishing a three-minute lead after 45km. Soon afterward Michael Woods and Israel-PremierTech teammate Itamar Einhorn crashed. Einhorn was able to chase back on, but Woods was unfortunately forced to withdraw from the race.

The sprinters’ teams such as Bora-Hansgrohe, Trek-Segafredo and Alpecin-Deceuninck were riding at the front to control things and with 100km remaining were holding the lead at around 1:55. This dropped to 1:16 just before the day’s climb, where De Gendt outsprinted Van den Berg to the summit. He took two points to Van den Berg’s one, but the points clocked up by the latter on Saturday saw him retain the mountains jersey.

The open roads didn’t have sufficient winds to break up the peloton, which was still together and gradually reeling in the break. The gap was just 45 seconds with 50km remaining and despite the efforts of the seven leaders, dropped further to 18 seconds by the intermediate sprint with 23km to go. De Gendt was quickest there ahead of Miquel and Bakelants, and immediately sat up afterwards to wait for the bunch and to save energy for another day.

Second bunch sprint of the Vuelta a España

The other six riders in the break kept going but the fight appeared to have gone out of them. The bunch was biding its time before the catch and this helped Richard Carapaz (Ineos-Grenadiers) to return after a crash. He was assisted by teammates Tao Geoghegan Hart and Pavel Sivakov and was able to rejoin.

The break was finally reeled in with 11.4km remaining. Alpecin-Deceuninck ramped up the speed to work for Tim Merlier, third on Saturday, while Bahrain-Victorious and Jumbo-Visma were also to the fore going into the final 5km. Race leader Mike Teunissen was working at the front for Jumbo, clearly deciding to keep Primož Roglič safe rather than trying for the stage win himself.

Trek-Segafredo then pushed forward going into the last 3km, trying to help Mads Pedersen after his second place on Saturday. Sam Bennett’s Bora-Hansgrohe squad was increasingly prominent going into the kilometer, but the Irishman had decided to track McLay rather than be too close to the front.

However just as Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) launched the sprint, Bennett jumped onto the wheel of van Poppel, who did another textbook leadout for the green jersey wearer.

He blasted in first to pad his lead in that classification, while Pedersen was left regretting another second place.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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