Ireland’s Sam Bennett third on Tour of Britain stage opener

American rider Sepp Kuss leads Vuelta a España despite conceding time to general classification challengers

Sam Bennett had a solid start to the Tour of Britain on Sunday, netting third in the finishing sprint into Manchester. The Bora-hansgrohe rider looked ideally placed as the sprint unfolded, poised behind Wout van Aert and the Belgian’s Jumbo-Visma team-mate Olaf Kooij when the former led out the gallop to the line.

However, Kooij gradually opened a gap on Bennett, with van Aert drifting back and blocking the Carrick-on-Suir rider from getting past for second place.

Fellow Irish man and team-mate Ryan Mullen had jumped clear inside the final 2km but was hauled back before the sprint began. He finished in the same main bunch, as did former national champion Rory Townsend (Bolton Equities Black Spoke), who placed 10th.

Bennett has not been quite at his usual speed this year, taking three wins thus far, but is hoping to add to that tally in the race. The Tour of Britain has been important in his career as winning a stage in 2013 helped him secure his first professional contract with the NetApp Endura team, the previous incarnation of his current squad.


Frustrated at not being selected to ride the Tour de France, Bennett is all but certain to leave that team at the end of the year. His new destination has not been officially confirmed. Before then, the race offers him a chance to show he is still one of the quickest sprinters in the sport.

The Tour of Britain continues on Monday with an undulating stage starting and finishing in Wrexham. Another sprint finish is the most likely outcome, handing him a second opportunity.

Meanwhile American rider Sepp Kuss maintained his overall lead in the Vuelta a España despite conceding a little time to the other general classification challengers. The stage to the summit of the Collado de la Cruz de Caravaca was won from a breakaway by the German rider Lennard Kämna, one of Bennett’s team-mates.

The overall contenders put each other under pressure earlier in the day, when the race broke apart in strong side winds, but started the final climb together. Heavy rain prior to the finish had deposited mud on the route inside the final kilometre, prompting organisers to announce that they would calculate times for the general classification from a point 2.05km from the line rather than at the finish itself.

Joâo Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe) clipped away on the final climb and gained five seconds on Kuss’ Jumbo-Visma teammate Primož Roglič, who was the strongest of the top general classification riders.

The latter took two seconds out of his team-mate Jonas Vingegaard, the Tour de France winner, defending Vuelta a España champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) plus two others, while Kuss was seven seconds further adrift.

He leads the race heading into Monday’s first rest day and enjoys a 43-second lead over Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates). Evenepoel is best of the race favourites in fourth, 2 minutes 24 seconds back, and five seconds clear of Roglič.

Tuesday’s individual time trial will be a big test for Kuss, who normally rides in support of Roglič and Vingegaard, but finds himself the one who is best in the general classification.

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling