Ireland’s Sam Bennett was second on the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya today when beaten to the line by Álvaro José Hodeg of Quick Step Floors.
The 98th edition of the race started in the city of Calella in what was a shorter stage than in previous years, covering 155km with two intermediate sprints and one categorised climb shortly before the finish.
The German BORA-hansgrohe team focused their efforts on getting their Irish sprinter Sam Bennett into the right place by keeping the race together so that it would come to a bunch sprint.
The race started under clear skies as a group of five riders went up the road. Their gap increased to over three minutes and after some kilometres a sixth rider was able to join the breakaway. Bennett’s team stayed together in the main bunch and took control of the pace. With 21km remaining the group was caught and the race came together to the climb of Port de Collsacreu.
Fourteen kilometres before the finish, Team Movistar took control of the main bunch and increased the pace. The race headed into the final kilometres with BORA–hansgrohe forming their lead-out for Bennett, with Jay McCarthy the last man for the Irish sprinter.
Together the two BORA–hansgrohe riders were in the first two positions as they headed for the line but in the final metres Quick-Step Floors’ Colombian rider Álvaro José Hodeg showed he was the fastest man on the day by taking the stage in just under 4 hours and 40 minutes ahead of Sam Bennett, with his teammate Jay McCarthy in third place.
The Irishman expressed his satisfaction with his podium finish especially considering he wasn’t fully sharp after his recent Paris-Nice abandonment:
“What can I say, the team worked really good. I want to thank my teammates for the support the whole day. Due to illness I left Paris-Nice and now I am missing some race kilometres. I felt good today but I hadn’t the legs to go for the victory but I am satisfied with my second place.”