Sam Bennett claimed his first victory in the Irish national champion’s jersey, surviving brutal conditions to win the bunch sprint on stage one of the BinckBank Tour 2019.
The Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter avoided the dangers on the opening stage, riding into the final straight on the wheel of Jumbo-Visma’s Dylan Groenewegen without a lead-out rider, as Trek-Segafredo led the peloton to the line.
Bennett launched his attack early and came from behind to over take the Trek train, comfortably securing his eighth win of the season, with Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) taking second.
Groenewegen didn’t get the chance to open his sprint, getting trapped behind his lead-out rider Mike Teunissen who finished third.
How it happened
The opening stage of the 2019 BinckBank Tour looked to be a nailed-on opportunity for the sprinters, starting in Beveren just outside Antwerp and following a 167.2km route and finishing across the border in the Netherlands, in the town of Hulst.
With no climbs along the pan-flat course, the only notable features were a scattering of brief cobbled sectors spread along the route, the last of which came around 7km from the finish.
A four-rider breakaway went clear in the opening 20km, extending their gap quickly to almost three minutes.
The riders were CCC Team’s Lukasz Wiśniowski, Lars Bak from Dimension Data, Aaron Verwilst (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie-Bruxelles).
While the route suggested a sprint, awful weather conditions threatened to turn the stage on its head, with heavy downpours making racing tense and dangerous.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step and Bora-Hansgrohe were determined to control proceedings and pulled the breakaway back within two minutes and holding it there for the rest of the stage.
The gap slipped to under one minute in the final 15km, which sparked Wiśniowski and Bak to attack once more, riding clear of Planckaert and Verwilst who were quickly caught by the peloton.
Wiśniowski was the last man standing with 3.5km to go as Bak was dropped, with the peloton just six seconds behind, before the Polish rider was eventually swept up as well.
UAE Team Emirates hit the front in the final 500metres, before two Trek riders swept past 300m out.
Jumbo-Visma were perfectly placed but Bennett was tucked on Groenewegen’s wheel.
Bennett launched 75m from the line and soared past Groenwegen who was trapped behind Teunissen and couldn’t fire up his move.
The Irishman passed Trek and hit the line first, with Teuns second and Teunissen second.
BinckBank Tour 2019, stage one: Beveren to Hulst (167.2km)
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3-37-15
2. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
3. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visa
4. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates
5. Phil Bauhaaus (Ger) Bahrain-Merida
6. Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Gobert
7. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
8. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Team Ineos
9. Álvaro Hodeg (Col) Deceuninck – Quick-StepTop
10. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3-37-05
2. Lukasz Wiśniowski (Pol) CCC Team, at 2 seconds
3. Lars Bak (Den) Dimension Data, at 3s
4. Edward Teuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, at 4s
5. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 6s
6. Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Wallonie-Bruxelles, at 7s
7. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates, at 10s
8. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-Merida
9. Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Gobert
10. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, all at same time