Bennett reveling in 'favourite' status in Tour of Turkey sprints

Sam Bennett went into the stage 1 sprint at the Tour of Turkey as a marked man, but the 26-year-old Irishman overcame the pressure to deliver the WorldTour stage win for his Bora-Hansgrohe team.

Bennett, who has seven wins so far in 2017, avoided a crash in the final 200 metres to beat Marco Benfatto (Androni Sidermec) and Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) in the high-speed sprint in Kemer.

"I didn't expect people to be afraid of me," Bennett said of his new-found 'favourite' status.

"I thought, if we slow up, they'll slow up. But they didn't," he said. "I felt pressure to come up with a result in the final 2km. My legs felt a bit jelly because of it, but in the end, it worked really well. It's great to be favourite in the sprints. It's a new experience. That is, I've had it before but never in the WorldTour, so I think I learned a lot today about timing and taking control of where I want to go."

With his team riding the front for much of the 170km stage, the sprint finale was all-but assured. When the breakaway came back on the outskirts of Kemer, Bora-Hansgrohe lined up for the sprinter.

In the end, Shane Archbold led Bennett up the right side of the reduced bunch before Bennett opened up his sprint with around 150 metres to go, eventually finishing a bike length ahead of Benfatto and nailing down one of his team's first goals for the race.

"We came with big ambitions to win stages and go for GC," he said. "We had a clear plan at the start of the stage, although it was very hard to pull it off. Trek, UAE and the other big teams fought hard, so it was very difficult for us, but I have to thank my teammates; we've delivered on one of our first goals in stage 1."

The stiff headwind in the finishing straight made the final sprint more tactical, and the crash at 200 metres threw another wrinkle into the effort. Bora waited patiently before launching Bennett.

"We wanted to hold back a little bit," the sprinter said. "We didn't expect Trek to come at us so strong. We really felt their presence. My team kept their cool and kept their timing right.

"Some guys went left at 200m to go and that was where I started my sprint. It was hard in the headwind, and at 50m to go I was tiring, but I looked around, saw I had a gap and I held my hands up on the line, which was really nice. You don't often get that chance."

Bennett said he sees at least two more chances for the sprinters in this week's race.

"The sprint today was harder than I expected," he added. "In the last 30 km the pace really dug in, it was a shock to the system. Hopefully I've got the flight out of my legs now, and I think tomorrow could be another opportunity."

Bennett will start stage 2 in the leader's jersey, but he said he's not at the race of the general classification, admitting that the climbing later in the week will prove too much for the fast men like himself.

"Our GC man is Gregor Mühlberger, who has been riding really, really strong and has progressed so much this year," he said. "He has a good chance for this race. We'll ride for him to the best of our abilities later in the week."

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