Carrick-on-Suir’s Sam Bennett celebrates after crossing the line to win last Friday’s seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Getty.
Carrick-on-Suir’s Sam Bennett became the first Irish cyclist to win a stage on the Giro d’Italia since Stephen Roche in 1987 (before he went on to win the event) when he won stage seven after a sprint finish to deny rival Vivani after 158km into Praia A Mare on Friday.
The 27 year-old, who rides for the Bora-Hansgrohe team was knocking on the door for his first Grand Tour stage (tours of France, Italy and Spain) win after two thirds in the first week of this year’s edition and a string of seconds and thirds in last year’s race.
Sam is the son of former Waterford United player and manager, Mick.
“I feel like I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight,” he said. “The most pressure comes from myself.
“I saw on the first stages the power I could produce. So it was just about keeping the faith and having patience.
“Even in the final today; when you’re so far back with 5k to go, you can panic and go too early. But it was just about waiting.”
Getting Viviani’s wheel today, and following it through the bunch and the bumping, was the key to his win.
“I just had to get that wheel,” confirmed the Carrick-on-Suir man, now with six career WorldTour wins to his name.
“I needed a bit of patience as well. I had to freewheel for a moment at one point because I knew it was just a bit too early. When the time was right I really took it up.”
“I think the hardest thing today was to have patience,” he confirmed. “I saw them looking back and checking me; maybe trying to get me to panic and go early again. They were really far back and I thought there was no way we’d come back because there was the chicane still to come.
“And I thought for sure it would be one line. So even if we did get back, would I still have the power still to go? There were a few close calls, but we made it. I could see the same thing with Lotto Jumbo. They went early and Viviani saw the opportunity. It was Viviani’s team mate that took his wheel to try to give him more breathing space. And they closed the door there.
“I kept my cool and it paid off. I feel more relaxed. A weight is off my shoulders now. The first few stages I just got the timing a bit wrong. I had the power, I knew what I was capable of. But it’s one thing having the belief and another thing doing it. But the guys did a great job today. And I could see they had real big belief in me.”
“I want to thank them all for the support; the team that’s working hard behind the scenes and everybody that helped me to get to this point in my career. Anything else now is a bonus. Obviously, I really want to win again. But it’s going to be more relaxing because today I felt a lot of pressure. There’s less opportunities after this stage. And there are so many tough stages to come. I’m just so much more relaxed.”