Sam Bennett clinches green jersey after pulsating Paris finalé
Sam Bennett branded himself into Irish sporting history, in Paris. What a finish that was.
In the 67 years the green jersey has been handed out to the points classification winners at the Tour de France, only two Irishmen have won it. Both are Carrick-On-Suir men, Sean Kelly and Sam Bennett.
Kelly claimed four green jersey wins during the 1980s and, today on Eurosport, he had the immense honour of calling the final stage, into Paris, as his neighbour and friend followed in his footsteps.
The 29-year-old went into Stage 21, rom Mantes-La-Jolie to Champs-Élysées (Paris), 55 points clear of seven-time green jersey winner Peter Sagan. He knew that he just needed to stay close to the Slovakian to secure Ireland's first 'maillot vert' since Kelly won his fourth and final one in 1989.
The final stage was a cruise into Paris but, as soon as they reached the city centre, the race truly sparked off.
Bennett has not let go of the green jersey since his Stage 10 win on September 8. He came close to making it two stage wins in a row, only to be pipped by Caleb Ewan but it has been relatively smooth sailing from that moment on.
Sagan and his team went all-out in Friday's Stage 19 but Bennett and his teammate Dries Devenyns reeled them in. Sagan all but gave up the ghost, at that stage, and passed on his congratulations to his sprint rival, and former teammate. Before he set off on for the finalé, Bennett declared:
"It’s a sprinter’s dream driving to the Champs-Elysées in the green jersey. If I could manage to win the last stage with the green jersey it would be amazing."
With Sagan so far back, he would have needed to win the intermediate sprint and the stage itself to claim 70 points and hope his rival was well down the pack.
As it transpired, though, Sagan did not contest the intermediate section so Bennett's lead was insurmountable. All he had to do was cross the finish line in one piece and he would go into the record books for this storied race.
A breakaway group of four riders was swallowed up with three kilometres to go, teeing us up for an exciting group finish.
Bennett's team put him in prime position up the final straight and Bennett did the rest. A stage win to clinch an incredible green jersey success story.
🦅 An aerial view of 🇮🇪 @Sammmy_Be's sprint as he powered his way to victory on the 21st and final stage.
🦅 Vue aérienne de la victoire de 🇮🇪 @Sammmy_Be qui s'impose lors de cette dernière étape de ce #TDF2020 pic.twitter.com/mBTetr3SX7
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) September 20, 2020
Also proceeding serenely all the way into Paris and up the Champs-Élysées was yellow jersey winner Tadej Pogacar, who sealed his remarkable triumph with a Stage 20 time trial win that left previous leader Primosz Roglic stunned.
Pogacar also claimed the 'King of the Mountains' polka dot jersey and the white jersey for best young rider.