Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) won stage four of the Vuelta a Burgos after he produced a powerful uphill effort in a chaotic final kilometre in Roa de Duero.
The Irish champion’s lead-out train was derailed by a crash with a kilometre to go, but he improvised to press clear alone on the gently climbing approach to the finish and claim a solo victory ahead of Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) and Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling).
The stage looked set for a more straightforward duel between the sprinters, but the complexion of the race changed on the sharp, uphill right-hand bend that led into the final kilometre, where both Michael Mørkøv (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Jacopo Guarnieri (Groupama-FDJ) crashed.
Bennett was positioned ahead of the crash and he had both the strength and the quickness of mind to take advantage of the confusion that ensued behind. With his hands on the hoods, he surged clear of the peloton and opened a decisive gap over the rest of the sprinters, and he had the nous to manage that advantage when the road flattened out on the approach to the line.
‘Coming into the final corner, I was up there. I had look a look around after the crash to see who was there, and everybody had sort of paused so I decided to go,’ Bennett said of an effort that bore the hallmarks of a finisher rather than a sprinter. ‘It was longer than I remembered and it was really hard, but I was really happy to take that win. I really needed it.’
Bennett now has three wins to his name since joining Deceuninck-QuickStep as their lead sprinter this season, and the Burgos victory was an important boost to his confidence as he builds towards the Tour de France.
Bennett’s teammate, Remco Evenepoel, finished safely in the main peloton to retain the overall lead ahead of Saturday’s final stage to Lagunas de Neila. The Belgian holds an 18-second advantage over George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), with Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren) lying third at 32 seconds.
How the SA riders fared
Stage four results
26 Louis Meintjes (NTT Pro Cycling) 3:51:19 (same time as winner)
53 Nicholas Dlamini (NTT Pro Cycling) same time as winner
143 Willie Smit (Burgos-BH) 7min 22sec behind
14 Louis Meintjes 2min 45sec behind
98 Nicholas Dlamini 36min 52sec behind
130 Willie Smit 39min 07sec behind