Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) said that his victory ahead of Fernando Gaviria, Elia Viviani and Caleb Ewan on the final stage of the UAE Tour is proof that he should be racing against the world's best sprinters. The victory is Bennett's second of the season after winning the final stage of the Vuelta a San Juan last month.
Bennett had a difficult start to the season after Bora-Hansgrohe decided not to take him to either the Giro d'Italia. The Irishman won three stages of last year's Giro, but he was overlooked in favour of fellow sprinter Pascal Ackermann. Bennett said that he respects the team's decision but added that it was a relief to notch up a win against a strong sprint field.
"Even with the fourth place the other day, OK I was fourth, but still it was a big achievement to be across the road from the best guys in the world and competing with them. To come out and do it again and prove that I should be here and win, I'm really happy," Bennett said in his post-stage press conference. "I think you could see my relief after the line. Of course, I wanted to go to the Giro, but I respect the team's decision. There are other races for me to go and try and win at. I just want to take every opportunity as it comes."
Bennett is in the final season of his current deal with Bora-Hansgrohe. "It can't do any harm in a contract year," he later joked of his win.
Having already come close to a win at the UAE Tour with fourth place in the blanket sprint finish on stage 5, Bennett remained confident that it would come together eventually. On that day, he decided to avoid using a lead-out train and stick to the wheel of Gaviria instead. He chose a similar tactic on stage 7 in Dubai, but this time it came good.
"I just asked the guys to get me on Gaviria's wheel, coming into the last corner. We were pretty close to Gaviria's wheel for the last 10 kilometres," explained Bennett. "I took it with about three kilometres to go and I just asked the guys to stay near me and if I got in trouble then they could come back around and take me back up. Sky, QuickStep, Bahrain, a lot of teams wanted his wheel, but I managed to defend it pretty well.
"The final was pretty hectic but I was able to do it. It's confidence building to know that I'm able to fight for position and still have a good kick at the end. I want to thank my teammates as well, they did a fantastic job as well."
Though he beat some of the quickest sprinters in the peloton, Bennett rejected the idea that he was among them.
"I still don't feel like one of the fastest in the world," Bennett said. "It's confidence boosting. I had to use a good bit of energy to stay on the wheel, but I still had a good bit left in the final that I could use. I didn't really have to pull out the sprint until the very last bit. No, it's great for the confidence. I put a lot of pressure on myself the last couple of months to come out with good form at the start of the season and the last couple of races I have got a win. I'm really happy with this."