Sam Bennett pipped at the line in France but looking stronger for 2024 season

Irish rider just misses out in the concluding stage of the Tour de Provence

Sam Bennett showed better form than last year in his opening stage race of 2024, but was foiled at the last moment on Sunday. The Carrick-on-Suir rider looked to have timed his sprint to perfection at the end of the concluding stage of the Tour de Provence, stomping past former world champion Mads Pedersen, the rider who had dominated the first three days of the race.

However, a headwind and slight rise to the line handed the Belgian Tom Van Asbroeck the edge, with the Israel-Premier Tech rider coming out of the slipstream to lunge past Bennett right at the line. The margin was a couple of inches.

“Pedersen launched the sprint, I took the wheel and then I was able to get past,” Bennett told French website DirectVelo afterwards. “And there, for a moment, I thought it was going well. But Van Asbroeck took the slipstream and he was able to overtake right at the end. The headwind surely cost me dearly.”

Frustrated at the outcome in his debut event with his new Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale team, Bennett nevertheless showed far better form in recent days than during a frustrating 2023 season.

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He was fifth in the opening five kilometre prologue on Thursday, a strong result for a non time-trialist. And while a chaotic finale ruined his sprint chances on Friday, he rode encouragingly well in Saturday’s mountain stage, cresting a first category climb close to the end with Pedersen and the other main contenders and placing 22nd on a day unsuited to sprinters.

His Irish coach, Stephen Barrett, has worked hard to build Bennett’s fitness and things are clearly paying off, with ninth overall after four tough days of racing a good indication.

Bennett will now head to the upcoming UAE Tour with greater self-belief than before and is hoping to turn Sunday’s near miss into his first victory of 2024.

At home, Marine Lenehan (Team Dan Morrissey-Primor by Pissei) beat Joanna Patterson (The Independent Pedaler-Nopinz) and Mary Corless (Challenge Cycling Club) in a sprint on Saturday to win the women’s race in the online Esports national championships.

Richard Barry (St Finbarrs CC) won an eight-rider gallop ahead of Colin Clavin (Streamstown Cycling Club) and Keane Ryan (Four Masters CC) in the men’s event.

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