Ben­nett beats Vi­viani, wins stage

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - SPORT -

IR­ISH­MAN Sam Ben­nett pow­ered to vic­tory in the sev­enth stage of the Giro d’Italia yes­ter­day, beat­ing favourite Elia Vi­viani in a sprint fin­ish at Praia a Mare.

Bora-Hans­grohe rider Ben­nett latched onto Vi­viani’s wheel at the end of the flat 159km ride from Pizzo to Cal­abria be­fore burst­ing past the Ital­ian to grab his first-ever win on a Grand Tour.

Bri­tain’s Si­mon Yates main­tained the over­all lead after fin­ish­ing safely in the pelo­ton, hav­ing taken the pink jer­sey by fin­ish­ing sec­ond in Thurs­day’s sixth stage.

Yes­ter­day’s ride was al­ways go­ing to end in a bunch sprint, with Da­vide Bal­lerini the last break­away rider to be reeled in by the main group with 14km still to go.

Quick-Step’s Vi­viani was widely ex­pected to claim his sec­ond win of the Giro and looked in a good po­si­tion head­ing into the fi­nal kilo­me­tre with a strong lead-out train.

But Ben­nett stuck to his ri­val and just pipped the home favourite to the line to be­come the first Ir­ish win­ner of a Giro stage since Stephen Roche in 1987.

“We tried so hard in the other sprints but never got the tim­ing right.

“The team did a fan­tas­tic job and I want to thank ev­ery­one who helped me get to this point,” Ben­nett said.

“It’s very hard to get Vi­viani’s wheel and I had to fight for it.

“I thought we had left it too late, but the tim­ing was right.”

Nic­colo Boni­fazio edged out fel­low Ital- ian Sacha Modolo to com­plete the podium. The gen­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion re­mained un­changed as the main con­tenders took a step back from the spot­light on a day for the sprint­ers, with Mitchel­ton-Scott’s Yates still lead­ing by 16 sec­onds from de­fend­ing cham­pion Tom Du­moulin.

Este­ban Chaves was third, a fur­ther 10 sec­onds adrift, with Chris Froome a minute and 10 sec­onds be­hind Yates after a dif­fi­cult start to his bid for a third con­sec­u­tive Grand Tour ti­tle.

The over­all favourites face a far tougher as­sign­ment to­day as the race heads back into the moun­tains for the 209km eighth stage, with the fi­nal climb at Mon­tev­ergine di Mercogliano 17km long with an av­er­age gra­di­ent of 5%. – AFP

PHO­TO­GRAPH: AFP

POWER SURGE: Ir­ish rider Sam Ben­nett cel­e­brates as he wins the sev­enth stage of the Giro d’Italia cy­cling race yes­ter­day

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