As Sam Bennett sat shivering beneath a blanket behind the podium in Imola, it was put to him that the weather on stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia had been particularly suited to an Irishman. Rain, after all, was general all over Emilia-Romagna. “It was freezing,” Bennett smiled through chattering teeth. “Maybe the conditions were good for me.”
Then again, the conditions that helped to propel Bennett to victory were already in place even before the skies darkened and the first light taps of rain began to fall over the Giro gruppo on Thursday afternoon. After winning his maiden Grand Tour stage in Praia a Mare last Friday, the Bora-Hansgrohe rider set out from Osimo armed with that most impalpable of qualities: confidence.
In a sodden final hour of racing, Bennett rode with considerable assurance. The rugged terrain on the rain-soaked finishing circuit proved too much for Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), but Bennett never missed a beat. In the final 400 metres, he didn’t wait for somebody else to chase down late escapees Matej Mohoric and Carlos Betancur; he went and fetched them himself, then powered to a resounding victory.
“It’s hard to say, but maybe I wouldn’t have been so firm in my decision-making if I hadn’t won a stage already. Maybe I would have hesitated,” Bennett said afterwards. “It would have been a different outcome in the final, I think. I was more sure of my decisions. When I decided on something, I just did it, if that makes sense.”
Bennett’s words on the team bus before the start in Osimo were certainly easily understood. On Tuesday, he had been, by some distance, the quickest sprinter to survive the fragmenting of the peloton in the opening kilometres of stage 10, but Bora-Hansgrohe never quite committed enough to keep the front group together and Bennett ended up winning a sprint for third place.
“I said to the guys, ‘Our number one priority today is to make it a sprint,'” Bennett explained. “I said if I had to do the sprint alone, so be it, but it had to be a sprint today. It couldn’t be like the last day where we were sprinting for third place, that’s for nothing.”
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