Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) took another resounding victory on stage 5 of Paris-Nice with a burst of speed that was too good for his sprint rivals but the Irishman was quick to criticize the tactics used by several other teams after a chaotic and messy sprint into Bollene.
“The guys were incredible today. I was suffering the last few kilometres. I don’t know what it is but people won’t let me follow my own train here. It’s frustrating in the final. I just got back on before the roundabout. It was a very hard final. I didn’t think I would hold it to the line but the guys did an incredible job and I’m just proud I could finish it off,” Bennett said at the finish during his post-race interview.
Deceuninck-QuickStep were dominant throughout the finale with their entire squad on the front as they looked to position the Green jersey ahead of the final sprint stage in this year’s race. Trek Segafredo, DSM and Groupama-FDJ all did long turns on the front for their sprinters and at one point it looked as though Bennett was on the cusp of being blocked in.
However, the Irishman found a gap and made it back to his lead-out before a final turn from Michael Morkov set Bennett on his way. Fast finishes from Nacer Bouhanni and Pascal Ackermann failed to dislodge Bennett from pole position with the sprinter once again showing his excellent early season form. Despite the win, Bennett was frustrated with the tactics of other teams.
“For some reason, I’m not left to follow my own wheel, guys are coming in and it seems like they just want to disrupt our sprint instead of concentrating on their own race. We don’t look at anybody else, so I don’t know why they’re getting so fixated on us. Maybe my teammates are too strong,” he said.
Bennett’s second win in the race will ensure that he is marked as one of the main contenders for Milan-San Remo, should the Italian Classic come down to a sprint and he will use the final three days in France to hone is form before departing for Italy.
“I was really happy to get the first stage and was really, really disappointed the second sprint day – to get close and not to get to compete that day. I really wanted to make up for it today. I can’t thank the guys enough. From now it will be a bit of strength and conditioning until the end of the race and then San Remo.”