Tour de France 2020
Sam Bennett surged back into the green jersey with a maiden Tour de France victory in a competitive bunch sprint at Saint-Martin-de-Ré after a stressful and incident-packed Stage 10.
Ireland’s Bennett became the 98th rider to win a stage in all three Grand Tours after riding on the coattails of another team’s leadout train before being propelled to the line by Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate Michael Morkov.
Bennett held off Australia’s Stage 3 winner Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) by a quarter of a wheel, with Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) taking third place ahead of Italy’s Elia Viviani (Cofidis) and the Danish world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Sagafredo).
An emotional Bennett was not totally sure he’d won, leading to a nervy wait across the line, but the celebrations in the Deceuninck-QuickStep camp were raucous once the news filtered through on his earpiece.
Speaking soon after his win Bennett said: “I don’t think it’s hit me, because I forgot to throw the bike at the line and I thought he [Ewan] might have got me. It hasn’t hit me, I thought I might be in floods of tears…” he said, before the deluge duly arrived.
“I just want to thank everyone involved in this, the whole team and [manager] Patrick [Lefevere] for giving me this opportunity and everyone it took to get to here, obviously my wife too and everyone around me.”
Despite his Sunweb team towing him to a commanding position entering the final straight, Dutchman Cees Bol could only take a disappointing eighth place behind German veteran Andre Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Frenchman Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept).
Bennett’s historic win saw the 29-year-old wrest the green jersey back from Sagan, whom he now leads by 21 points in what is proving to be a thrilling subplot to the 107th edition of the Tour.
Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) survived his first day in yellow with flying colours, avoiding numerous flashpoints on a tense day on the Atlantic coast to retain his 21-second lead over Colombia’s Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) in the general classification.
But while there were no changes in the top 10, Frenchman Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) were all involved in one of the many crashes and splits that peppered the 168.5km stage that played out under bright sunshine and buckets of stress.
The first day back after Monday’s rest stage was a pancake-flat ride between two islands featuring no categorised climbs and just 528 metres of climbing – a perfect opportunity for the sprinters to return to the fold after an opening week that offered slim pickings for the fast men.
Perhaps inspired by the exploits of compatriot Marc Hirschi on Sunday’s Stage 9, Swiss duo Michael Schar (CCC Team) and Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) rode clear from the gun as the peloton skirted the oyster farms and glistening waters of the Marennes basin near Île d’Oléron.
The advantage of the duo reached a maximum of two minutes but came down fast owing to a zippy average speed of 46km/h over the first hour as the peloton rode along the beautiful Charente-Maritime coastline and past a succession of golden-sand beaches.
Regular pieces of road furniture, pinch-points and roundabouts made for a stressful and tense day, with the peloton splitting in winds with around 100km remaining – just as a small pile-up tore through the back of the pack.
The incident spelled the end of Sam Bewley’s maiden Tour, the 33-year-old New Zealander breaking his left wrist after going down hard on the grass verge along with Mitchelton-Scott teammate Esteban Chaves of Colombia and Ireland’s Nico Roche (Team Sunweb).
With Kung and Schar reintegrated into the pack, a high-tempo second phase of the stage opened up with the teams of the race favourites on high alert owing to numerous obstacles that made this far from a simple flat outing for the sprinters.
Entering the final 40km, Italy’s Matteo Trentin (CCC Team) pipped Sagan for the intermediate sprint, with Bennett content to sit back and take third – a decision which may have given him the edge at the end of the stage less than an hour later.
Two crashes in the pack either side of some splits in the coastal crosswinds caused further chaos before the race crossed over onto the Île de Ré for the first time in Tour history. Martin, Pogacar, Coquard, Lopez and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) were all involved in separate incidents, while Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) suffered a mechanical that saw him eventually come home 10 minutes down.
Some order was restored by Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma team after the best efforts of Bernal’s Ineos Grenadiers to distance some of the race favourites on the windy finale.
But once the magic three-kilometre mark was passed, the entire Sunweb team came to the front for Bol – with the exception of Roche following his earlier crash. Sunday’s hero Hirschi pulled with Belgian Tiesj Benoot ahead of the final kilometre – but despite Sunweb’s positioning and intent, their man Bol was unable to improve on his two previous podium finishes.
Instead, Bennett was steered through by the experienced Morkov before opening out the sprint and holding both Ewan and Sagan at bay. He became only the second Irishman – after Shay Elliot – to complete a stage haul in all of cycling’s major Tours.
Bennett will have the chance to double up in Stage 11 – a 167.5km largely flat ride from Châtelaillon-Plage to Poitiers, another day for the sprinters before the race hits the hills in Stage 12 and then the mountains of the Massif Central on Friday.