Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) is still on the hunt for a Vuelta a España stage victory to secure leadership of the Italian team at the world championships after finishing third behind Peter Sagan in Pontevedra on Thursday.
“I would have liked to win here to shut a few people up,” Bennati admitted to Gazzetta dello Sport after Thursday’s stage. “In Italy it seems that to do the Worlds, who knows what you have to do…”
Bennati was overlooked for selection in Geelong twelve months ago. Italian coach Paolo Bettini has long indicated that he would be his preferred captain this time around in Copenhagen, but with the caveat that the Tuscan picked up some victories ahead of the Worlds. Bennati has placed 6th, 4th and 3rd in Vuelta sprint finishes to date, as well as enjoying a day in the red jersey, but has failed to land a win.
With Italian fast men Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox) and Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) picking up bouquets elsewhere in recent days, Bennati was keen to point out that the depth of competition in Spain needs to be taken into account.
“Here the level is very high and there are not many opportunities. It’s one thing to win here, another to win somewhere else. Even a placing here counts,” he said. “I’ll go on with my preparation anyway. Bettini told me to stay calm.”
The finish in Pontevedra saw Bennati put in his best sprinting performance at the Vuelta thus far, but he was unable to match the ferocious speed of Sagan in the finale, while John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad) also pipped him for second place.
“I wasn’t in great condition. Maybe I had a bit of a cold the day before, I didn’t sleep well, but that’s not an excuse. I wanted to try anyway,” Bennati said. “The finish was tough and I could have done with an extra man, but Cancellara did exceptional work.”
Ultimately, however, Bennati could have little argument but that Sagan was the strongest rider on the day. “Sagan was on my wheel. I’m not sure if you could see it from the images, but I skipped a gear, I hesitated a little. But he’s going well.”