So far, there’s no luck of the Irish for the nation’s most likely victor at this year’s Tour de France, as sprinter Sam Bennett lost out again on stage three.
Having blamed his own tactical mishaps for his failure to take better than fourth place on the opening day in Nice, the Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider says this time it was “just a matter of luck”, as the diminutive Caleb Ewan fared better in the headwind during the bunch sprint into Sisteron.
“I had to go first, so I gave the guys another lead out,” Bennett explained, chuckling at his misfortune, having opened his sprint too early this time as opposed to too late, as he did on stage one. “It was just a headwind and it was easy for someone to come off the wheel so…”
Ewan effortlessly picked his gaps to ease past the rest of the field as he came from behind. The Irishman says his legs weren’t the best today but “were enough” to contest the victory, and that it was “just a matter of luck” as his Australian rival squeezed through to pip him on the line.
Before the stage, Bennett said he still had personal pressure to deliver a victory despite the team having already claimed a stage win and the yellow jersey on stage two thanks to Julian Alaphilippe.
He enjoyed the day riding with the yellow jersey on the shoulders of a team-mate, but “had to stay focused” on the job at hand.
“Sam Bennett really wanted to win, we are a little bit disappointed that he didn’t,” Alaphilippe added, “but we have fulfilled our goal which is to [bring the race] to a bunch sprint finish after we controlled the race the whole day.”
On stage four tomorrow, Alaphilippe will try to protect his yellow jersey while Bennett will just survive in the gruppetto as the riders face the first summit finish of this year’s race. But on stage five, he will have another opportunity to take his first Tour victory.