Bora-Hansgrohe’s Irish sprinter shot clear of top rival Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) along the Tyrrhenian coast to win in Praia a Mare after so many close calls in 2018 and 2017.
“I am definitely hungry for more wins, I want more in this Giro now,” Bennett said when reaching the press room. The big ginger-haired sprinter added, “I feel a big weight is off my shoulders.”
He placed third three times and second once in 2017 after starting the race sick. In this edition, he ended the first two sprints in Israel third behind winner Elia Viviani.
Bennett took his Grand Tour first when the Giro d’Italia reached its homeland, but also mainland Italy. After a ferry crossing from Sicily last night, the peloton faced its first flat finish along the coast in Reggio Calabria.
Viviani looked ready to win once again. His team-mate Michael Morkov tried to sit on his rear wheel to block rivals, but Bennett rode it and powered clear at the right time. Viviani appeared to have lost that punch that carried him to two wins so far.
“Maybe I won’t sleep, but I feel that I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight,” Bennett continued.
“I just had to keep the faith that I could get my first Grand Tour win given the power that I was producing in the first few stages. I had to keep the faith in the in the stage, too, when I wasn’t in position or when the others were starting early, just keeping confident that I could do it.”
Bennett is used to persisting. He did so when his father tried to push him towards football and after a car hit him head-on in 2009. The Sean Kelly team gave him their faith while Bennett still dealt with issues from the incident.
NetApp-Endura signed him and launched his professional career, and Bennett remained loyal while the team grew and became Bora-Argon 18 and with the signing of Peter Sagan, Bora-Hansgrohe at the WorldTour level.
“I prefer the Giro, so it’s perfect with Peter Sagan in the team. I was nervous when he came, but it actually gave me more opportunities. I’ve had space, and I’ve been happy with it,” Bennett added.
“He gives our team a lot more presence in the peloton and a lot more respect, and also the people he brought with him like trainer and nutritionists. The whole team stepped up.
“What does this win do? Definitely, it’ll just give the team confidence that the guy they are working for is capable. And also, when you get a little bit more respect in the peloton, it goes a long way. It helps in getting that position and in saving energy. It gives me and the team that respect here in the Giro.”
Bennett will take a back seat over the weekend with two summit finishes scheduled, but will return with that hunger when the Giro speeds into its next town and next expected bunch sprint on Tuesday, stage 10 to Gualdo Tadino.