IRELAND’S SAM BENNETT took victory on the Champs-Elysees and secured the green jersey on the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris in the most spectacular fashion possible, while Tadej Pogacar rolled home in yellow to cap a remarkable closing weekend.
Carrick-on-Suir native Bennett beat world champion Mads Pedersen in an exhilarating sprint finish to take his second stage win of the Tour, having already wrapped up the points classification at the intermediate sprint of the 122km stage from Mantes-la-Jolie.
It made Bennett the first Irishman to win a major jersey at one of the three Grand Tours since Sean Kelly won green at the Tour for the fourth and final time in 1989.
Tá sé buaite aige!!!!!
Chapeau @Sammmy_Be !!! 🏆💚#TDF2020 pic.twitter.com/8US0xtSFAJ— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) September 20, 2020
President Michael D. Higgins congratulated Bennett for his victory on social media, adding: “Winning two stages and the green jersey in one of the hardest Tours of recent years is an enormous achievement, and one that will be celebrated by all those who love cycling and Irish sport.”
Bennett launched his sprint early and looked like he might be overhauled by the hard-charging Pedersen, but he would not be denied in the race all sprinters want to win the most.
He wound up with almost 100 points to spare over seven-time green jersey winner Sagan, finishing on 380 points to the second-placed Slovakian’s 284.
The Irishman is only the sixth ever rider to ride into Paris wearing green and win the final stage.
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Comhghairdeas mór mílteach le Sam Bennett!— TG4TV (@TG4TV) September 20, 2020
Fiú leis an masc feiceann tú an meangadh mór gaire! pic.twitter.com/4cQLo4R9nr
Green was the only classification left to be determined after Pogacar’s incredible ride in Saturday’s time trial on La Planche des Belles Filles saw the Slovenian secure the yellow jersey as well as the King of the Mountains’ polka dots and the best young rider’s white on his Tour debut.
The 29-year-old Bennett had come to his third career Tour focused purely on stage wins, desperate to capitalise on the strength of the Deceuninck-QuickStep squad he joined this winter after finding his path at Bora-Hansgrohe blocked by seven-time Tour green jersey winner Sagan.
He got the victory he craved on the Ile de Re on stage 10 but after Sagan was relegated from the sprint a day later, Bennett found himself in an unexpected battle for green with his old team-mate.
The ensuing fight cost Bennett energy he might have saved for sprints, but he ultimately had enough for an emotional victory on the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees.
Behind the sprint, Pogacar rolled home resplendent in yellow after his success 24 hours earlier lifted him above his friend and compatriot Primoz Roglic at the top of the general classification.
A day before his 22nd birthday, Pogacar is the youngest winner since a 19-year-old Henri Cornet won a very different looking event back in 1904.