Sam Bennett enjoys podium finish on his return to action in China

Irish rider came from a long way back to take third in the bunch sprint into Beihai

Sam Bennett had an encouraging showing in his first race in more than a month, performing strongly on Thursday’s opening stage of the Gree-Tour of Guangxi in China.

The Bora-hansgrohe professional came from a long way back to take third in the bunch sprint into Beihai, with his finishing speed better than his rivals inside the final 100 metres and carrying him on to the podium. Stage winner Elia Viviani (Ineos Grenadiers) and runner-up Jonathan Milan (Bahrain-Victorious) were better positioned as the sprint unfolded and had a margin that Bennett couldn’t quite overcome.

He takes encouragement from the performance, not least because of recent complications.

“After a tough couple of weeks with sickness and so much missed training, I’m quite happy to be back on the podium here,” he said.

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“Due to the wide roads and headwinds, we gambled a bit in the finale and had to come late. The boys did a perfect job moving up in the last 2.5km, 300m from the finish line I was held up a tiny bit but we surfed our way through and I came out with good speed in the end. Kicking off a race with a podium is always nice.”

Five stages remain, with at least two of those likely to finish in bunch sprints. Friday’s stage two is one of those opportunities and Bennett will try to land the win.

He has had a frustrating season with numerous high placings but only three victories. He is set to leave his Bora-hansgrohe team at the end of the season, with his new squad not officially announced.

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