Sam Bennett overcame the pressure to take victory on stage 10 of the Tour de France 2020, and move into the green jersey lead in the process.
The Irish sprinter was kept out of trouble through a hectic day of racing and found himself in perfect position with just 250 metres left of the stage.
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Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) was first to launch his sprint from the front of the bunch and held off Caleb Ewan by less than a wheel to win the day.
Primož Roglič stays in the race lead after an outstanding effort by Jumbo-Visma to keep their leader safe.
How it happened
Stage 10 was the first real transition stage of the race – 169km, plan-flat profile from Île d’Oléron to Île de Ré, that was all-but nailed on for the sprinters, unless the wind struck the peloton.
Early in the stage, only two teams were willing commit to an escape as Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) and Michael Schär (CCC Team) both launched their attacks as soon as the flag dropped and quickly pulled out 30 seconds.
The Swiss breakaway pairing extended their advantage to almost two minutes early in the day, but the peloton weren’t content to amble through the stage and the gap began to tumble with 100km left to race.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step began to drive the pace and that caused some splits in the bunch, but no major contenders missed out in the echelons.
The acceleration from the chasers saw Schär and Küng caught with around 95km to go, as a number of riders were caught in crashes back in the bunch.
Over the next 40km, the groups all came back together but with no breakaway there was no steady rhythm in the bunch and the pace fluctuated.
Crashes continued to bring down, but all of the overall favourites and the sprinters were able to keep their places in the bunch.
With 40km left to the line the green jersey contenders had a chance to fight for some points at the intermediate sprint, with Matteo Trentin (CCC Team) taking maximum points, followed by Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step). Sagan slightly extended his advantage over Bennett in the points classification.
Then into the last 30km of the stage teams turned their attention to the finish and the forecast crosswinds that threatened to strike the peloton in the final 25km.
Ineos started to string the bunch out with a high pace into a headwind at the front of the bunch, with Jumbo-Visma close behind and Deceuninck – Quick-Step fighting for the front positions to set up Bennett.
With 18km left the crosswinds hit and the bunch began to split almost immediately, with Jumbo, Ineos, Deceuninck and Bora-Hansgrohe in the perfect place at the head of the bunch.
Miguel Ángel López (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) found themselves dislodged from the front and were forced to chase a part of a small group.
A squeeze in the bunch at 16km caused a big crash in the front group, with Richard Carapaz (Ineos) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) both getting caught up in the chaos.
The peloton hit the Île de Re bridge and the crosswinds eased, allowing for a slightly calming of the pace which let López, Carapaz and Valverde rejoin the group.
Movistar took up the front of the bunch with 10km to race as the winds faded and the bunch were able to stick together, before Jumbo took over to get the race leader inside the 3km GC cut-off point which they did successfully.
With 2km to the line Sunweb led the bunch as Bennett and Sagan barged the shoulders around them to get into prime position for the sprint, as the bunch hit a headwind inside the final kilometre.
Bennett hit the 250m mark in perfect position in second wheel and was first to launch his sprint with Ewan and Sagan close behind.
Ewan was closing in fast on the Irish champion, but it was Bennett who won the day by just a quarter of a wheel, with Ewan second and Sagan taking third.
Bennett’s win now puts him top of the green jersey standings on 196 points, with Sagan second on 175.
Primož Roglič still leads the Tour by 21 seconds over Egan Bernal.
The Tour de France 2020 continues with another likely sprint stage on day 11, 167.5km from Chatelaillon-Plage to Poitiers.
Tour de France 2020, stage 10: Île d’Oléron (Le Château-d’Oléron) to Île de Ré (Saint-Martin-de-Ré) (168.5km)
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3-35-22
2. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
5. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
6. André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
7. Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM
8. Cees Bol (Ned) Sunweb
9. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
10. Luka Mezec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott, all at same time
General classification after stage 10
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 42-15-23
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 21s
3. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis at 28s
4. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 30s
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, at 32s
6. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at same time
7. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 44s
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-02
9. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 1-15
10. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-42