Sam Bennett sprinted to victory on stage three of the Vuelta a España to make it two in a row in the Netherlands.
The Bora-Hansgrohe rider powered past Dan McLay (Arkéa Samsic) and held off Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) to take his second stage win at this year’s race in two days.
Bennett was expertly guided to the line by his teammate Danny van Poppel, taking his 60th win of his career as a result.
Meanwhile, Edoardo Affini became the third Jumbo-Visma rider of the Vuelta to claim the red jersey, after the previous race leader Mike Teunissen lost positioning in the run in.
Bennett won in Utrecht on Saturday, and he was clearly given confidence by the result, and could power home once again on Sunday.
A largely uneventful day in the southern Netherlands did see a change in the overall leader, but other than that not much occurred over a flat 193.2km course.
How it happened
The final stage in the Netherlands was once more a flat affair, as it almost had to be on the roads surrounding Breda, which is where the race both started and finished.
Thanks to his efforts in the final yesterday, Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) was in the red jersey, the second Dutchman from the Dutch team to lead the race in his home country, after Robert Gesink.
It looked like it would be a fairly formulaic bunch sprint day, with a break established and then kept at bay by a peloton full of winning options.
Julius van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost) attacked almost from the gun, looking to defend his blue polka-dot mountains jersey, which he claimed on Saturday. He was soon joined by six other fortunate (or unfortunate) men in the day’s escape.
They were: Jose Herrada (Cofidis), Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH), Pau Miquel (Kern Pharma) and Mikel Iturria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), along with Van den Berg.
The break had already been created and set in stone just two kilometres into the day, proof that the stage was only really going to go one way. While the gap occasionally got up to almost three minutes, it was always coming down.
Van den Berg and Miquel were up the road for the second consecutive day, so they both must have been rather tired of the landscape of the southern Netherlands.
Bora-Hansgrohe and Trek-Segafredo were the two teams most conspicuously leading the bunch, riding for their sprint options Sam Bennett and Mads Pedersen respectively. Alpecin-Fenix were also at the front for their fast man Tim Merlier.
The only thing of note in the opening kilometres was a crash involving Henri Vandenabeele (Team DSM) and Filippo Conca (Lotto Soudal). Thirty kilometres later, a crash involving two riders from Israel-Premier Tech – Michael Woods and Itamar Einhorn – saw the former forced to retire from the race, a blow to their teams options in the mountains.
A brief split in the peloton with 128km to go was as a result of the pace being put down by the teams at the front more than anything more exciting, and it was quickly repaired.
It took almost 70km for the next interesting thing to happen, which was the category four “climb” of Rijzendeweg, 300 metres at 3.3%. The full two points were taken by De Gendt, by Van den Berg came across the line in second, meaning he will carry the polka dot jersey to Spain.
The pace was high throughout the day, with the riders going at over 46km/h on average, proof of the intensity of the bunch but also the pancake-flat nature of the Dutch roads.
The break got to the intermediate sprint at Sint Willebrord ahead of the peloton, which saw Thomas de Gendt take the maximum points in a classification for a second time on Sunday, along with three bonus seconds.
A mild crash with 21km to go saw Richard Carapaz, Pavel Sivakov and Carlos Rodríguez (all Ineos Grenadiers) briefly distanced, but the trio got back quickly.
The break was reduced to just Miquel, Van den Berg, Bakelants and Okamika with 11.3km to go, which is when it was finally caught by the peloton. Just the casual few hours out front for these four.
It was Bahrain-Victorious who were at the front with 3km to go, with the sprint teams battling out to also be close to the pointy end.
However, into the final 2km it was Alpecin-Fenix who looked in control, with Bora, DSM and UAE Team Emirates also trying to get involved.
Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) was the first to kick, but was soon caught by other sprinters. Merlier was soon out of it after unclipping in the sprint.
Bennett was the one who took up the run-in, overtaking Dan McLay (Arkéa Samsic) in the final 50 metres and holding off Pedersen to take victory.