Sam Bennett wins the final Giro stage in the shadow of the Colloseum
Carrick on Suir's Sam Bennett made it three stage wins in the Giro d'Italia when he crossed the finish line in spectacular style on Sunday afternoon.
Raced on the historic streets of Rome, Bennett took victory in the shadow of the ancient Colloseum on the final day of the three-week event - making him the most successful Irish rider in Giro’s history for stage wins.
Main rival Elia Viviani couldn't match the Carrick man's speed as they raced for the line after 11 circuits of the city.
The brilliant result brings to three Bennett's stage wins during the Giro - he took his first ever grand tour stage win during this year's tour, after a series of second and third places in the last two years. He had come into this race looking for his first grand tour stage win and more than achieved his goal.
Points gained from his stage wins mean Bennett finished second in the overall sprinters' standings on 282 points, just 59 points behind Viviani (341 points), but well ahead of third placed sprinter Davide Ballerini on 147 points.
The stage was 115km long and Bennett crossed the finish line in 2 hours 50 minutes 49 seconds, his average speed was 40.934km/h.
Speaking after the stage Bennett said: “I woke up not feeling so good today, my legs were tired and I wasn’t sure if I could go for the sprint. The race course was really difficult and I couldn’t take my hands off the bike due to the cobblestones during the race. I felt better as the pace increased and once again it was a great team effort. The boys worked so hard for me, closed the gap and did a strong lead-out. Without them the victory wouldn’t have been possible.
Describing the stage he said: "With the winner’s mentality, you always want more and I couldn’t let my team-mates down. I kept positioning myself from 2km to go. A few people wanted Viviani’s wheel. It was a super fast finale. I knew Viviani could have a second kick so I sprinted as late as possible."
As for his future goals Bennett now his sights set on the famous 'Monument' Milan-Sanremo one day race. "Three stage wins makes me very happy but I’d also like to win a classic and Milano-Sanremo is the only one.”
With his three stage wins, stage seven in Praia a Mare, stage 12 into Imola, and now Rome, Bennett is now the most successful Irish cyclist for winning stages in the Giro, passing Stephen Roche who claimed two stage wins.
Over the last three weeks Bennett has been transformed into to one of the main sprint challengers with television pundits. This has been the break-through race of his career.
Ralph Denk, Team Manager of Bora hansgrohe, said after the stage: “Our goal was a top ten result in the overall ranking and one stage win, now we have two riders in the top ten, three stage victories and a plenty of podium results. We exceeded our goals, which makes me really happy and proud. The whole team worked the last couple of weeks perfectly together, the riders, the whole staff and the two sports director, Christian Pömer and Jens Zemke did a stellar job.”