It had looked to be another successful day at the Tour de France for Deceuninck – Quick-Step, as Sam Bennett took the green jersey from its usual custodian Peter Sagan, despite once again missing out on a maiden stage win.
The picture of the Bennett and Julian Alaphilippe in the yellow jersey had already been posted on the team’s Instagram, before the Frenchman was given a time penalty for an illegal feed with 17km to go.
Yates was hurried to the podium and Alaphilippe left glum as he zoomed back to the team buses, now wearing a normal Quick-Step jersey but still decked out in yellow shorts.
It was left to Bennett to explain what had happened, while he also tried to enjoy being the first Irishman to take any Tour leader’s jersey since Sean Kelly in 1989.
“It’s not that the team were trying to get away with anything, we’re not trying to. It was a mistake and unfortunately, we’re paying the price for it and there’s a lot of disappointment,” Bennett said.
“I think it was probably just a complete accident.
“I’m sure he wasn’t trying to get away with anything but I’m sure he’s disappointed.”
Asked whether it was normal protocol for the team to have soigneurs with bottles at 20km to go and this incident was simply a mistake, Bennett was unsure.
“I suppose rules are rules. It’s sometimes hard for people to know where they are on the road, especially when they have a different route,” Bennett said. “It can be like ‘what’s 3km going to do’ but I don’t know…
“I probably shouldn’t comment too much on it, I’ll get in trouble for something,” he laughed.
The Irishman says it’s a struggle to know how to feel after missing out in a bunch sprint for the third time this Tour, saying he was too focused on making sure he beat Peter Sagan to secure the green.
“I’ve never had such mixed emotions after the finish. On one side, I have the green jersey and am really happy and honoured, on the other side I didn’t win the stage,” Bennett said. “But I got so focused on Peter [Sagan] I almost forgot to go for the stage I think. I’ll just have to enjoy this moment and go for it again when there are more opportunities.
“I think that killer instinct hasn’t faded away but I just lost my focus, I just saw the green and was locked on that, almost forgot where I was.”
As for whether he will now challenge Peter Sagan for the green jersey, the sprinter is undecided.
“For tomorrow for sure, then we’ll take it day by day. He’s won it seven times for a reason and it’s going to be hard.”