Sam Bennett powered through in the final 100 metres to take the opening stage of Paris-Nice, but the postscript to the race was dominated by the news that Richie Porte was forced to abandon.
The sprinters were not hindered by a crash just into the flamme rouge, and Frenchman Arnaud Demare looked well set to take the leader’s jersey as he loomed up menacingly, but he did not have the legs to repel Deceuninck-QuickStep rider Bennett. Trek-Segafredo’s Mads Pedersen filled out the podium.
Although admitting there were concerns at one stage, Bennett was delighted the job his team did to put him in position to win the sprint at St Cyr L’Ecole.
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“The guys did a fantastic job again,” Bennett said. “We were a little blocked in the last 15km. The nature of the sprint here, with the straight roads, was chaotic and then the narrowing in the last 500m made it very, very tricky, but we planned to get me into position.
The boys delivered me on a wheel rather than doing a full-lead out to the last 200 or 150m. They put me on the wheel with 1k to go.
"The boys did a great job. The team were amazing and I’m happy to finish it off.”
'Not good news' - Porte abandons after crash at Paris-Nice
It was Bennett's third win of the season after taking a couple of stages at the UAE Tour.
Porte’s bid to win Paris-Nice for a third time was ended by a crash with 33kms remaining.
The Ineos Grendadiers rider, a winner in 2013 and 2015, hit the deck hard and although he climbed back onto his bike after receiving medical attention, he was forced to abandon a short time later.
Bennett will be in the leader’s jersey for stage two of the Race to the Sun on Monday, and he will be high on confidence that he can repeat the trick when the riders arrive in Amilly.
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