Sam Bennett wins rainy opening stage at the Binck Bank Tour
The flat first stage of the BinckBank Tour was tailor-made for the fast men of the peloton. The riders traversed 167.2 flat kilometres from Beveren in the Belgian province of East Flanders, to Hulst in the southwest of the Netherlands. Like all of this year’s stages, with the exception of the ITT, today’s stage featured a Golden Kilometre containing three intermediate sprints within a distance of only 1000m as well as time bonuses of 3, 2, and 1 seconds. The second half the stage was made more challenging by six cobbled sections, however, the race came down to the expected mass sprint in Hulst. Not long after the start, a group of four was able to escape, yet their lead grew to no more than 2:30. Rainy conditions during the second half of the race made for a difficult race, and the peloton ultimately split into several groups. Irish champion Sam Bennett remained attentive and managed to make the cut into the first group with some teammates. The sprinters’ teams were sure to not gift the break any chances to take the win, and as a result of the pace setting that was meted out by BORA - hansgrohe, the distance to the leading quartet began to be whittled down. The race came largely together again, and BORA - hansgrohe was to be seen once again at the head of the field. With less than 30km remaining, several sprinters’ teams came to the front to share the pace setting duties and close the gap to the leaders. The catch was eventually made with a few kilometres remaining in the race. Two kilometres ahead of the finish line, Sam positioned himself on the wheel of D. Groenewegen and waited until the ideal moment to launch his sprint. In the last metres, he was able to overtake E. Theuns and M. Theunissen, to net his ninth victory this season, and his first in the Irish national champion’s jersey. With his win, he also leads the points classification as well as the overall standings by a margin of 2 seconds.
01 S. Bennett 3:37:15
02 E. Theuns +0:00
03 M. Teunissen +0:00
From the finish line
“I'm really happy to get my first win in the Irish Champion's jersey here. It was a bit dangerous today with the rain, and I skidded a couple of times, but everything ended up ok. The guys put me in a good position in the finale, and I tried to keep this position over the last two kilometers. Then I got behind one of the sprint trains and then I launched my sprint at the right moment. I have a special connection with Belgium and I am particularly happy about this win because it is always difficult to win at this race.” - Sam Bennett
“It was a fast stage right from the get-go. There was some wind and bad weather conditions, as well as small streets, which made for a hectic race. The team rode in the service of Sam, and it was our goal to bring him into a good position for the sprint in the finale. Over the final 2 km, he may have been let go by the team slightly too early, however, up until that point, is teammates worked seamlessly, particularly Marcus Burghardt, who had worked to keep the break under control. In the sprint, Sam had a very good position behind Groenewegen and made his move at precisely the right time. He was certainly the fastest on the day, and took the win as a well-deserved result. We’re extremely happy with this, and still want to go for another stage win here.” – André Schulze, Sports Director