Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) showed his clear sprint superiority on stage three of the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné, easily beating his rivals to the line to claim victory.
The Irishman was dropped off perfectly by his final lead out man Shane Archbold in the final 200m, sprinting ahead of the rest of the pack to win with time to sit up and celebrate.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) impressively took second place in the sprint ahead of Davide Ballerini (Astana) and Clément Venturini (Ag2r La Mondiale).
Race leader Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) held on to his overall lead with no significant changes to the top-10 on general classification.
How it happened
The third stage of the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné would see a chance for the sprinters, with four category four climbs en route to a flat finish in Riom.
Another rainy day welcomed riders at the start in Le Puy-en-Velay, but two riders Natnael Berhane (Cofidis) and Quentin Pacher (Vital Concept) braved the conditions and got up the road in the day’s main breakaway.
They gained a maximum gap of around 3-30, with the situation early on looking as though it would inevitably come down to a sprint finish.
The sprint teams, particularly Bora-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck-Quick-Step, did a large proportion of the work along with race leader Dylan Teuns’ Bahrain-Merida squad, to try and hold the break within reach with the gap gradually dropping as the race went on.
In the final 50km the gap was down to 53 seconds, with the break looking increasingly doomed as the rain subsided and riders began to shed layers ready for the final action.
The two breakers were able to hold on with 16km to go to go through the intermediate sprint first, but had just over 15 seconds by that point.
Berhane and Pacher were eventually brought back with 12.2km to go, with Team Ineos the coming to the front to keep Chris Froome safe heading towards the bunch finish to the line.
Jumbo-Visma, Dimension Data and Quick-Step then began to fight for position in the final kilometre, with no-one able to take full control of the bunch.
Bora-Hansgrohe then made a late surge towards the front of the bunch with 500m to go to place Sam Bennett in a perfect position, with Shane Archbold dropping off his sprinter to make his effort with 200m to go.
There was nothing anyone could do to match Bennett in the final gallop, with the 28-year-old adding another win to an impressive 2019 season.
The main GC contenders including Chris Froome all finished safely in the main bunch to take the same time.
The Critérium du Dauphiné continues on Wednesday with stage four, a 26km individual time trial in the commune of Roanne in central France.
Critérium du Dauphiné 2019, stage three: Le Puy-en-Velay to Riom (172km)
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 4-15-25
2. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
3. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Astana Pro Team
4. Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
5. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
7. Alvaro Hodeg (Col) Deceuninck-QuickStep
8. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
9. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott
10. Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
General classification after stage four
1. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida, in 11-52-28
2. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, at three seconds
3. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, at 20s
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at same time
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 24s
6. Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First
7. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Ineos
8. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Ineos
9. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
10. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, all at same time