Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) has been proud to wear his Irish national champion's kit at this year's Tour de France, but after sprinting to a third place finish on stage 5 from Gap to Privas on Wednesday, he was just as happy to switch it out for the green jersey. He became the first Irishman in 31 years to wear the points classification prize – the last being Sean Kelly in 1989.
"I think there will be a big buzz [at home in Ireland]," said Kelly, who retired in 1994 with 193 career victories, on the Eurosport broadcast. "A lot was expected of Bennett going into this Tour. He's been talked up a lot going for stages and the green jersey. Now he's got the green jersey, so it's always a great thing for cycling back in Ireland. There is a big buzz on, and that will boost it that bit more."
Bennett took maximum points at the intermediate sprint bonus in L'Epine after 47.5 kilometres of racing on Wednesday, giving him the edge over Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), who could only manage fourth. In the second sprint, Bennett was again ahead of Sagan for two more points. At the finish in Privas, Bennett's final push put him in front of Sagan on the line, securing the final podium spot behind stage winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and runner-up Cees Bol (Sunweb).
"It's a special moment in my career to hold the green jersey for at least a day. To follow in their [Sean Kelly and 1987 Tour winner Stephen Roche's] footsteps is something quite amazing. I'm really proud to do it, and proud to be here in the national champion's jersey and represent Ireland," Bennett said to Flobikes after the stage.
Bennett's achievements at this year's Tour are getting attention. Former Tour de France winner and television commentator Bradley Wiggins was impressed by today's strong moves by the Irishman.
"He's got a realistic chance of winning this competition now. He's probably the fastest in the race, along with Caleb Ewan [Lotto Soudal]," Wiggins said on Eurosport. "But great for Bennett. There's a new added pressure now that when you take that green jersey, what becomes your priority? Winning stages or racking up points?"
Battered Poels selected as most combative
Meet the most combative rider of the day. 👊🏆 @Wout.Poels, we're super proud of you. Despite the injuries sustained on stage 1, you keep pushing. #whereiswout #smilingisforfree #RideAsOne #TDF2020 📸 @BettiniPhoto and @cyclingimages Team Bahrain McLaren
A photo posted by @bahrainmclaren on Sep 2, 2020 at 12:42pm PDT
Four days after a nasty crash on stage 1 in Nice, Wout Poels has continued riding for his Bahrain McLaren team with a broken rib and a lung contusion. After the finish in Privas on stage 5, he was recognised as the most combative rider, getting respect from many inside and outside the peloton.
Former professional cyclist Bram Tankink, who raced with a broken rib during his career, spoke highly of his fellow Dutchman.
"After 10 days, the fracture will heal itself. Then a little more space is created. Then you have to hope that it stays together," said Tankink on 1limburg.nl, recalling that after more than a week with a broken rib, there is still pain. "I coughed once and I couldn't move anymore and my rib came loose. Every movement hurt like hell after that."
Despite any pain or discomfort, Poels was not the last rider across the line on Wednesday, finishing in 168th place out of 172 positions, seven minutes off the winning pace set by Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
Peloton comes to rare consensus on 'strange' Tour de France stage
It is rare that the professional peloton can agree on how anything happens in the sport, but there was unanimous opinion about stage 5 of the Tour de France: it was strange. When race director Christian Prudhomme dropped the flag at kilometre zero, nobody attacked. And nobody attacked the entire stage.
Matt White, head sports director of Mitchelton-Scott, said he couldn't recall ever seeing a Tour de France stage without a single breakaway.
"But it's not a normal TDF. It's been an aggressive first week, but normally the invited teams and the local teams are always interested in putting someone up the road. There was none of that today. It was a pretty calm stage until the last hour of racing, when nerves and wind and going into certain towns amped up the anxiety and the pace was very fast going into the finish."
Simon Geschke (CCC Team) was especially flummoxed, writing on Twitter: "Let's put it this way – today you could have ridden with no problems until 60km before the finish. In jeans and a t-shirt. I had an average heart rate of 113."
Astana's sport manager Dmitriy Fofonov said his team was solely focused on protecting Miguel Angel Lopez, rather than going with any attacks.
"Indeed, it was quite a strange stage with no breakaway, but all the teams were worried about the wind in the final, so, maybe, every team decided to protect their leaders rather than to try to do something in the break," Fofonov said on the team's website. "However, it was one more day at the Tour de France, and for us it went pretty good. Another important stage is waiting for us tomorrow, so let's see what happens there."
For the EF Pro Cycling squad, rider Jens Keukeleire said it's not normal to have such an easy day in the Tour de France, but that the hectic finishes always make up for it.
"I was actually wondering why we were going so hard because there wasn't a breakaway that we had to catch, but it was just that everyone wanted to be in a good position. You saw about 10 kilometres from the finish that we hit a left corner and some guys got dropped, and there was still a big group in the front. If you're not paying attention, you can get dropped there," said Keukeleire, who won a stage at the Vuelta a España in 2016.
"I think we did well and were all in a good position there, and didn't lose any time today," he said, with EF team leader Rigoberto Uran moving into 14th place in the general classification after the stage.
Grand Tour veteran Matthieu Ladagnous of Groupama-FDJ blamed the difficulty of the opening stages, as well as the upcoming days of climbing.
"We've had four difficult first stages, and everyone was probably tired," Ladagnous said. "There are also four difficult stages left before the rest day, and two tough weeks after that. If we can get some calm days, we are not going to say no. Apparently, everyone was fine with it as there was no breakaway."
Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) wrote on Twitter (see below) that no one was brave enough on Wednesday to go in a breakaway, but that they'll try again on the next stage: "No hope for breakaways before, so no surprise there wasn't anyone brave enough today. Eat (not so much), ride, sleep repeat once again."
No hope for breakaways before, so no surprise there wasn't anyone brave enough today. Eat (not so much), ride, sleep repeat once again. #TDF2020 @INEOSGrenadiers📷 @GettySport pic.twitter.com/80INeLgUx4September 2, 2020
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