Irishman Bennett leads new crop of sprinters

The Bora-Hansgrohe rider won the opening two stages at this week's Tour of Turkey.

FETHIYE, Turkey (VN) — Irishman Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) forms part of a new crop of sprinters heading into the 2018 season while older stars could soon fade.

Bennett won the first two stages of the Tour of Turkey this week to underscore his steady rise. At 26 years old, he belongs in a young group of sprinters with Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), Daniel McLay (Fortuneo-Oscaro), and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo).

“After winning the two sprints in the Tour of Turkey, I think that it sets a good morale in the race,” Bennett said. “The guys are giving 100 percent and it’s good to see. For me, it’s a big confidence booster and I think I can enjoy the off-season this year.”

Bennett won a stage in Paris-Nice by beating Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) earlier this year. With two wins in the Tour of Turkey, he counts three WorldTour wins and eight in total for 2018.

“It can only bring good things,” Bennett said of his 2017 success.

Three-time defending world champion Peter Sagan leads the Bora team after a multi-million-dollar transfer last year from team Tinkoff. Bennett fights for his place in the team roster when it races in the other big events.

In the Giro d’Italia, an illness held him back but he still placed second once and was third three times. Bennett should have his chance to lead Bora’s sprint team in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, while Sagan focuses on the classics and the Tour de France.

“He’s Irish, he’s full of confidence anyway, he doesn’t need anything extra,” explained Shane Archbold, who led Bennett to his wins in Turkey. “It’s good for him, it’s good to end the season on a high.

“He only had one WorldTour win to his name and now he has three in two days, so that’s pretty impressive on his part. The confidence is always good going into the off-season on a high.

“Pressure? He’s a motivated bike rider, so he’s going to put a lot of pressure on himself. I don’t think it makes any difference if he’s here, at the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, or some club race in Holland, it’s always going to be the same with Sam. It’s just the way he is.”

Colombian Fernando Gaviria, 23, dominated the Giro d’Italia with four stage wins this May. He now leads the next sprint wave as riders like Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) will relinquish their spots at the top rung of the sprint ladder in the coming seasons. Bennett, Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Australian Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott), and others will be racing alongside for victories.