Paris-Nice 2017: Irish sprinter Sam Bennett bags first WorldTour victory on stage three - Road Cycling UK

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Paris-Nice 2017: Irish sprinter Sam Bennett bags first WorldTour victory on stage three

Bora-hansgrohe man betters Alexander Kristoff and John Degenkolb to claim victory

Irish sprinter Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) bagged the first UCI WorldTour stage win of his career on stage three of Paris-Nice 2017.

After the chaos of crosswinds on the first two stages, the third stage proved somewhat less dramatic – resulting in a bunch sprint as expected – but Bennett saw off illustrious sprinting rivals like Marcel Kittel (QuickStep Floors) to bag his first win of 2017.

Though the break wasn’t caught until the final kilometre, the Irishman comfortably outsprinted Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) to claim the biggest win of his career to date.

Sam Bennett sprinted to his first UCI WorldTour victory of his career on stage three of Paris-Nice 2017 (pic – Alex Broadway/ASO)

Three riders formed the day’s break almost from the flag – Pierre-Roger Latour (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Benjamin King (Dimension Data) and Romain Combaud (Delko Marseille Provence KTM).

With no repeat of the crosswinds and echelons which made for frenzied, enthralling racing on the first two stages, the break settled into a rhythm and were allowed to build a lead of eight minutes over the bunch.

It took some time before Katusha-Alpecin took control of the bunch and began to reign the front men back in again, with FDJ and QuickStep Floors also taking turns in the wind.

Despite the relatively straightforward action – at least compared to stages one or two – South African champion Reinardt Janse van Rensburg did hit the deck hard with less than 30km remaining.

The crash forced the Dimension Data rider out of the race, but there was no let-up in the chasing as Latour and Combaud distanced King up the road.

Attacking over the Cote de Charrecey, Latour’s move – tracked by Combaud – was sufficient to keep them hanging in front but the peloton closed in fast as a sprint finish approached.

Dutch champion Dylan Groenewegen crashed, ensuring he would play no part in proceedings, but the peloton’s other leading sprinters were all present and correct at the front.

Latour and Combaud’s effort finally came up just short inside the final kilometre, as QuickStep Floors looked to set up Kittel.

Alongside being the biggest win of his career, Bennett’s triumph was also the first WorldTour win by an Irishman this season (pic – Alex Broadway/ASO)

Kittel opened up his sprint in the middle of the road, but Bennett took Kristoff’s wheel on the far side, and came inside the Norwegian with a powerful kick.

The move was enough to give the Irishman breathing space and he comfortably held off his nearest challengers to bag Ireland’s first victory of the season.

Arnaud Demare (FDJ) finished sixth, and consequently keeps the yellow jersey for now, but that should all change on stage four with a time trial on Mont Brouilly, before the attention switches to the climbers – or at least those still in contention after the crosswinds of days one and two.

Paris-Nice 2017: stage three – result

1) Sam Bennett (IRL) – Bora-hansgrohe – 4.31.14hrs
2) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha-Alpecin – ST
3) John Degenkolb (GER) – Trek-Segafredo
4) Marcel Kittel (GER) – QuickStep Floors
5) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Team Sunweb
6) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ
7) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal
8) Christophe Laporte (FRA) – Cofidis
9) Kristian Sparagli (ITA) – Dimension Data
10) Magnus Cort Nielsen (DEN) – Orica-Scott

General classification

1) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ – 12.14.42hrs
2) Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) – QuickStep Floors +6”
3) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha-Alpecin +13”
4) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – QuickStep Floors +17”
5) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Soudal +19”
6) Romain Hardy (FRA) – Fortuneo-Vital Concept +21”
7) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +23”
8) Rudy Molard (FRA) – FDJ – ST
9) Daniel Martin (IRL) – QuickStep Floors
10) Kristijan Koren (SVN) – Cannondale-Drapac +31”

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