The 29-year-old safely made to the finish on one of the toughest stages of this year’s edition.
As strange as it may sound, Sam Bennett extended his cushion in the points classification after Sunday’s leg-sapping stage 15, which took the peloton through the Jura mountains, where three punishing climbs awaited: Montée de la Selle de Fromentel, Col de la Biche and Grand Colombier, a lung-busting ascent which was first used in a race four decades ago, at the Tour de l’Avenir.
A flurry of attacks flew from the peloton seconds after the start in Lyon, some of these coming from riders who tried to put pressure on Sam Bennett. The Irishman responded present each time, sticking like glue to his opponents’ wheel and showing them how determined he was to fight for the green jersey. Victorious on stage 10, Sam remained calm and attentive as a breakaway tried to form, and again shut down a series of accelerations of his rivals, before things finally calmed down and a group got green light.
The bunch trailed them by three minutes as they went through the intermediate sprint in Le Bouchage, where the Sam Bennett – Michael Mørkøv duo was again on fire, the green jersey wearer grabbing seven points after another perfect lead-out of the experienced Dane and increasing his lead in the standings to 45 points. Then, as soon as the first classified ascent started, Julian Alaphilippe, Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns and Mørkøv all rallied around Sam and paced him for the last 65 kilometers of the stage, thus making sure he would come across the line with plenty of minutes to spare before the time cut.
“It was another hard day and I used a lot of energy for the intermediate sprint, but overall I felt pretty good compared to other stages. Everything was under control today. I could count again on this fantastic team, to whom I am grateful, and I’m happy that I will now start the final week of the Tour clad in the green jersey”, Bennett said after the stage.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images