George Bennett placed third after a brilliant performance in stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico, photo Don Kennedy

George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo has finished third in stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico.  The Kiwi climber leapt up the general classification to 7th overall as Mikel Landa of Movistar took the stage win ahead of Rafal Majka of BORA-Hansgrohe; while Damiano Caruso of BMC Racing moved back into the race lead.

Foligno to Sarnano Sassotetto ended with a brutal 14km climb to the finish line.  The stage was primed for the climbers but that didn’t stop a breakaway group from going up the road.  Nicola Bagioli of Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini, Alexander Vlasov of Gazprom-Rusvelo, Jacopo Mosca of Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia, Antione Duchesne of Groupama-FDJ, Krists Neilands of Israel Cycling Academy and Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo made up the numbers in the move and they gained an advantage that went out to 5 minutes in total before being brought back.

The battle royale inevitably unfolded on the slopes to Sarnano Sassotetto, with the climbers still all very much together; with the exception of Tom Dumoulin who had been forced to abandon after a crash landed him with abrasions and bruising.  The last of the breakaway was mopped up with 7km remaining; and from here it was all about the GC contenders, with Mikel Landa opening up the attacks.

Nothing was quite able to go clear, although Rafal Majka’s attack succeeded in ridding the group of Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana.  But a significant reduction to the GC group occurred at a crucial moment in the final climb as Geraint Thomas was brought to a halt with a mechanical problem.  As he dealt with the issue the attacks continued, with George Bennett mixing it up with the attackers and being part of the final selection of three riders who eventually made it towards the finish line together.  

Mikel Landa, George Bennett and Rafal Majka held a slender advantage over the chase group behind that contained the big hitters of Rigoberto Uran, Michal Kwiatkowski, Adam Yates, Romain Bardet and co.  The intensity was kept high from the trio ahead though but after a big turn on the front Bennett was overtaken by Landa and Majka; although he was able to hold on to the wheels of the Pole as Landa began to put distance into them.  In the end Majka and Bennett managed to close slightly and concede no time, but Landa had done enough to take the stage honours; with Bennett crossing the line just behind Majka in third place, a fantastic ride from the Kiwi.

Afterwards Bennett reflected on what had been a highly successful day of racing.  “It was a long time ago that I was as good as today during a European race,” Bennett said.

“It was a super-explosive final.  It’s a pity that I ran short to win the stage.  That has to do with the fact that I haven’t ridden many races yet.  But my shape gets better with every race.  I’m already looking forward to tomorrow, when my teammates will help me as well as today.  I’ll do everything I can to stay out of trouble.  I do not want to lose any time in the GC this Tirreno.”


Photo:  Don Kennedy


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