PRAIA A MARE, Italy – Sam Bennett timed his sprint to perfection to win the seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia, while British rider Simon Yates remained in the overall lead as the race went over to the Italian mainland on Friday.
Bennett was the last to launch his sprint but the Irish rider managed to edge out Elia Viviani – who won two of the opening three stages – and claim his first win in a Grand Tour.
Niccolo Bonifazio was third in the bunch sprint at the end of the flat 159-kilometer (99-mile) route along the Calabrian coast from Pizzo to Praia a Mare.
“I’m really happy with that,” said Bennett, who finished third in each of Viviani’s wins. “I tried so hard the other days to get the win but never seemed to get the timing right.
“It was very hard to get Viviani’s wheel, everyone wanted that wheel, and we had to fight for it. At one point I thought we’d left it too late but the timing was right and I could use my power to get an advantage.”
There was an early break of three cyclists and the peloton allowed Davide Ballerini, Markel Irizar and Maxim Belkov an advantage of more than four minutes before it began to reel them in.
They were caught with 14 kilometers remaining as the peloton powered to the sprint finish and victory for Bennett and his Bora-Hansgrohe team.
The general classification was unchanged and Yates, who won the young rider classification at last year’s Tour de France, retained his 16-second advantage over defending champion Tom Dumoulin.
Yates’ Mitchelton-Scott teammate, Esteban Chaves, remained third overall, 26 seconds behind.
Four-time Tour de France winner Froome was in eighth place, 1 minute, 10 seconds behind.
“It was a good first day in the maglia rosa, relaxed at the start,” Yates said. “For us as a team it was perfect. A bit stressful at the final as always but OK.
“Tomorrow, if I have the legs, I might try something. I still need to get some time on Tom Dumoulin and some other guys who are better time trialists than me.”
Saturday’s eighth stage sees the second mountain finish at the end of a 209-kilometer (130-mile) route from Praia a Mare to Montevergine.
The Giro ends in Rome on May 27.