Sam Bennett texted Nicolas Roche night before historic day for Irish cycling at Vuelta a España 2019

Stage three was a memorable milestone for Irish fans

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Sam Bennett texted Vuelta a España leader Nicolas Roche the night before his stage win, saying he had to win to make Irish history.

With Bennett's win in Alicante, it was the first time an Irishman won a stage in a Grand Tour with his countryman in the race lead.

Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter Bennett, 28, delivered ahead of Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) on the wind-swept coast in Alicante.

>>> Five talking points from stage three of the Vuelta a España 2019

"It's a big thing for Irish cycling," said Sunweb's Roche, who took the race leader's red jersey on stage two.

"Sam wrote to me last night and said 'now I've got to win while you are in the red jersey. It'll be great for Ireland.'"

Making it even better, Bennett won in the Irish national champion's jersey he took this summer in Londonderry.

"It's great to get another Grand Tour win and especially in the Irish champion's jersey; I'm very proud to win it," Bennett said.

"I can't tell you how relieved I am with that. I felt so bad last night, I can't tell you how bad my legs were. Thanks to the team today I could relax and follow, and really trust them. If it wasn't for the team effort, I wouldn't have got it."

The race already blew up on stage two, allowing Roche to ride clear in a group that included Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and eventual stage winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

On stage three the sprinters had their chance, riding along the coast with a tailwind, as Bora-Hansgrohe, Trek-Segafredo and Sunweb fought for control in Alicante.

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Bennett added: "Sunweb closed us and we lost all of our speed. I got on to Trek's train. I knew it was a fast final, I wanted to kick first and I think Trek waited too long. With that wind, it's hard to come back on."

Bennett won three stages in the Giro d'Italia in 2018 but his team overlooked him in favour of Pascal Ackermann in the Giro this year. Peter Sagan led their sprint team in the Tour de France.

When asked of his Vuelta plans, Bennett said simply "win."

"I always feel that when you get the first one in a Grand Tour, it makes it a lot easier," He added.

"The longer it goes on without winning, the more the pressure builds.

"There don't seem to be that many opportunities in this year's Vuelta and if you don't get it this week, you're almost waiting until last week of the race. So it's good to get the win in early."

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