Sam Bennett was born with a talent. His family and clubs, teams and coaches helped him develop that talent and this week it all came together.
Every cycling fan in Ireland felt the hairs on the back of their necks tingle as their heart rates increased to match the readings on Sams’ Garmin as he climbed and sprinted to a fantastic second place on last Mondays stage.
On Thursday in front of televisions throughout the land grown men subconsciously pedalled with their hands and stomped their feet on the floor in an effort of help propel Sam to the line first. He didn’t really need any help as he made it look easy dispatching some of the Worlds top riders as he cruised to victory ahead of such a select group. The feeling of elation that everyone felt was very close but not quiet up to that felt by his team manager Kurt Bogaerts.
Then came today and a stage finish that contained all the drama of the greatest of Tour de France sprint finishes.
Mark Cavendish is one of the greatest pure sprinters of all time. With 2k to go his Omega Pharma team were setting him up for the final mad dash to the line. Every other sprinter from all the top teams knew that his wheel was the one to follow and the fight to get on his wheel began. Pro Tour team Cannondale set their train to full steam ahead in an effort deposit their sprinter Elia Viviani on Cavendishs’ wheel. But another train was also on the track. Third division An Post ChainReaction cycles were not going to be intimidated by the Pro Tour big money big guns. They had Sam. They had Sean Kellys name on their backs and the words of Kurt Bogaerts ringing in their ears. They would not be intimidated, and neither would Sam.
Sam and Viviani both went for Cav’s wheel at the same time. I jumped from the couch as I saw Sam stick out the elbow as Viviani tried to bully him off the wheel. Three times one of the most experienced vicious sprinters in the World tried to bully, shove and bounce the young 22 year old from Carrick on Suir off the wheel and everytime he met with a raging dogged determination that made the vastly more experienced Italian back off. He was also probably a little bit frightened.
Rounding the final corner as ‘Ale’ Jet’ launched Cav for the line it was Super Sam who was glued to the Manxmans wheel and who didn’t loose an inch from there to the line. He wasn’t able to come around Cav but finishing second was still an absolutely incredible result and coupled with the previous stage win made sure that the name Sam Bennett is now well known to all Pro Tour managers in the World.
But the drama did not end there. In an incredible similarity to the stage of the 1975 Milk Race where the great Sean Kelly announced his arrival on to the World stage with a win against some of the best in the World at the time, and where the Swede Bernt Johannsen attacked Kelly after the stage. Superstar Primadonnas do not like to be beaten by third division riders and Johannsen took issue with Kelly. Kelly did not back down and look how he turned out !
Today after the stage Viviani challenged Sam, who also was taking none of it and did not back down.
Sam has arrived and with his fighting determination and spirit the cycling World may have witnessed the arrival of a new superstar !