A pure sprinter hasn’t won Milan – San Remo since Arnaud Démare in 2016, but when Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) were spotted falling out the back of the bunch, Sam Bennett’s odds of winning plummetted.
Television pictures showed the Deceuninck – Quick-Step man fighting hard to stay in contention as the pace increased, but eventually the Irishman succumbed to the gradient.
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“No, no, no,” Bennett replied when asked about whether he was close to clinging on towards the top of the Poggio. “I blew, it was hard. I just didn’t have the legs.
“I was okay, I had a flat tyre on top of the Poggio but I don’t think that was the problem. I went around the corner on the top and nearly fell.”
Bennett eventually rolled in 60th, four and a half minutes down, not quite matching up to his best-ever 28th placing last year.
For the 29-year-old sprinter it was a multitude of factors that cost him a chance of victory, a perfect storm tearing through sprinters’ dreams of taking their Monument.
“It felt different to other years. The heat got to me a bit, I think it got to a lot of guys…but it’s hard, I think the race is harder with this parcours,” he said.
“I think without the racing beforehand it’s harder,” Bennett added, about the abrupt resumption of racing following the coronavirus pandemic. “Because we’ve only raised just over a week or so. And then straight into 315km races so it’s going to be hard.”
The Irishman will next race the Tour de Wallonie in a week’s time as build-up to the Tour de France, his first since 2016, where he will be hoping to finally take a stage win to go with his victories at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España to complete his Grand Tour set.