Irish sprinter Sam Bennett showed why he currently looks the world’s best as he powered to his second victory in this year’s edition of Paris-Nice with an emphatic final drive in stage five.
Bennett was made to fight for position on the approach to the sprint on Thursday’s stage but once the Deceuninck-QuickStep rider lit it up, no-one else could get close as he won by a bike length from Nacer Bouhanni.
Bennett, who also won the opening stage, complained that rivals had been trying to block his path late in the 200km stage from Vienne.
“The guys were incredible today,” he said. “I was suffering in the last few kilometres. I don’t know what it is – people won’t let me follow my own train here.
“It’s frustrating. I got back on before the last roundabout but it was a very hard final and I didn’t think I’d hold out to the line. The guys did an incredible job and I’m proud I could finish it off.”
There was little change to the general classification on the day with Australian Lucas Hamilton, of Team BikeExchange, still eighth overall.
Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic leads the race by 31 seconds from reigning champion Max Schachmann, of Bora-Hansgrohe, who at least picked up four bonus sprint points before going into the more testing final three days.
Changes, though, are expected to be announced to the upcoming route, with authorities in Nice calling for Sunday’s planned finale on the Promenade des Anglais to be moved due to an ongoing lockdown.