Ireland’s Sam Bennett finished in third place in a chaotic sprint at the end of the opening stage of the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina.
The stage was won by Fernando Gaviria of UAE Team Emirates at the end of 159.1km from San Juan to Pocito. Gaviria outsprinted Matteo Malucelli (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) with Bennett showing his strength, pushing his way through the peloton to take a hard earned third position, with just inches separating him from second place.
Commenting on the first stage of the race, the Irish rider stated:
“The guys put in a very strong effort all day to control the race and make sure I was well-placed for the sprint finish. We reached the final stretch in the front but it was very difficult for me to stay on Peter’s wheel as many sprinters thought he was going to contest the stage win. It was hard to get a clear line but I was able to cross 3rd in a very tight sprint.”
Sweltering conditions made for fast frenetic racing on the first stage, with temperatures close to 40°C. The day was defined by two breakaways controlling the race, with the second going out with 40km remaining and only being caught within the final 5km. The sprinters clearly weren’t going to be denied, and having driven the pace hard they kept on going, with a tough, close and chaotic finale making it hard to find a wheel.
An out and back route opened the Vuelta a San Juan, departing from San Juan city and following a 159.1km parcours before finishing in Pocito, a stage suited to the sprinters. Looking to make their mark early on, a group of eight formed the day’s break and while their lead exceeded 4:30, this wasn’t enough to keep the bunch at bay, with the catch being made more than 70km from the finish.
With so much of the race left to go, another break of four went out at the 40km point, this small but committed group holding the peloton at bay for more than 35km, but with a slim advantage and the sprinters hungry for the win, it couldn’t last, especially with Bennett’s BORA-hansgrohe train taking shape and driving the pace hard.
Though it was tough and chaotic for the Irish rider to stay on the wheels of his teammates Peter Sagan and Erik Baška in the lead out, the 28 year old showed his fighting spirit, squeezing his way through the bunch to a hard-fought and incredibly close finish to take third spot with less than a tyre’s width separating him from second position.
Stage 1 results:
1 Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) 3h50’12”
2 Matteo Malucelli (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) s.t.
3 Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) s.t.
General classification after stage 1
1 Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) 3h50’02”
2 Matteo Malucelli (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) 4″
3 Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) 6″