Italy?s Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) team won stage three of the Tour of Benelux on Saturday and snatched the overall race lead in yet another bunch sprint finish at the ProTour race.
Bennati has struggled with injuries in key parts of the season but seems to be back to his best. After making the key split caused by the winds blowing across Holland, and some excellent work from his team mates, Bennati powered past Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Belgian national champion Jurgen Roelandts (Silence). Boonen seemed to suffer a slight mechanical problem in the final metres of the sprint but Bennati was clearly faster after Quick Step messed up the lead out.
Brits Roger Hammond (Columbia) and Jeremy Hunt (Credit Agricole) finished 10th and 12th in the sprint.
?I?m really happy to have won, this is the first time I?ve ever beaten Tom Boonen,? Bennati said with a huge, after missing the last three months of racing. He dedicated his win to his recently born son Francesco.
?My Liquigas team mates worked really hard for me in the final part of the race. Chicchi did an excellent job in the final kilometre to set me up and then I accelerated hard and the tailwind helped me. This gives me a lot of confidence for the Vuelta Espana. I?ll be up against Boonen and Quick Step in the sprints, so I?m looking forward to what will be a daily battle.?
After being well placed in the other stages, Bennati also took the overall race lead thanks to the stage winner?s ten-second time bonus. He now leads Norway?s Edvald Boasson Hagen by one second, with Germany?s Andre Greipel third at four seconds. Gutierrez slipped to fourth, also at four seconds.
Boasson Hagen had taken the virtual lead by taking three seconds in an intermediate sprint but will have to wait a little longer before pulling on the white leader?s jersey. He is now favourite to win the Eneco Tour when it ends with a 18.8km time trial on Wednesday.
Early stage three action
Daniele Bennati passed his rivals with ease
Tom Boonen looks on as Daniele Benatti takes the win
Photos by Luc Claessen