Sam Bennett maintained his excellent form from the recent Giro d’Italia into the Tour of Slovenia as the Irishman won the first stage in a sprint and took the race leader’s jersey.
Three flat stages and one mountain top finish are the steps to take for glory in the Tour of Slovenia. The opening day was one of the flat stages, over 159.4 kilometres between Koper and Kocevje, with an expected bunch sprint.
There were several attacks at the beginning of the stage, before a group of 9 riders went away from the peloton on the first climb of the day. With sprinters in the bunch like Cavendish, Colbrelli and Sam Bennett from BORA – hansgrohe, it was clear, that the bunch would react early enough to control the breakaway.
When the gap increased to around 4 minutes, the sprinter teams started to wind up the pace and gradually cut the advantage of the leading group. Alex Saramotins was one of the guys pulling at the head of the peloton, together with Dimension Datan and Bahrain Merida.
Going into the last 20k, the gap was down to under one minute, and all was set for a bunch sprint. The last breakaway rider was caught with 7k to go, as the lead-out trains started to organize the final.
With a perfectly timed effort, BORA – hansgrohe hit the front with one kilometre to go. Pöstlberger and Selig opened the sprint for Sam Bennett who finished off a strong lead-out with a superb win in Kocevje.
The Carrick-on-Suir sprinter spoke of the excellent team work which delivered his victory:
“We controlled the race the whole day with Alex pulling together with the other sprinter teams. Because the day was easy in the bunch, the final on the last two laps was especially fast. We lost each other a little with 4k to go, but Rafa brought as back up. When we hit the front on the last k, Pösti and Rudi delivered me so fast, I just had to hold the speed to the line. It was a great win after a strong team work. I still feel a little tired after the Giro, but the speed is also still in my legs.”
The team’s sports director explained that a slight change in their lead-out was the reason Bennett took the first stage of the Tour of Slovenia:
“After the Giro we took some time to think about how we can adapt our lead-out to Sam’s needs. I think today’s win is a great example of team work, not just on the road, but also from all guys working really hard in the background.”