Sam Bennett claimed his second stage win at this year's Giro d'Italia, overcoming both his rivals and the rain to triumph at the famous Imola racing circuit on Thursday.
The 214-kilometre ride from Osimo appeared set up for an exciting bunch sprint, only for the arrival of bad weather to split the peloton and open the door for Bennett to pounce.
Timing his late attack to perfection, the Bora-Hansgrohe rider stormed clear in the closing section of stage 12, overhauling Slovenia's Matej Mohoric and Carlos Betancur of Spain to ease to victory.
His latest success, following on from his triumph at Praia a Mare last Friday, means he becomes the first Irishman to take two stages in the same Giro since Stephen Roche in 1987.
Danny van Poppel finished second, ahead of Niccolo Bonifazio, though neither managed to put any late pressure on Bennett, who had enough of a gap to salute the crowd as he crossed the line.
With the aid of his Mitchelton-Scott team-mates, overall leader Simon Yates crossed the line safely in the pack to maintain his 47-second advantage over defending champion Tom Dumoulin.
Second Giro stage win this year for Sam Bennett: the same feat achieved by his compatriot Stephen Roche in 1987. | Seconda vittoria per @Sammmy_Be al Giro quest'anno: stesso risultato del suo compatriota Stephen Roche nel 1987#Giro101 pic.twitter.com/Sys2lV7v6B— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 17, 2018
CAUGHT OUT IN THE RAIN
Quick-step Floors' Elia Viviani was expected to challenge again prior to the stage getting underway, with the fast-finishing Italian aiming to complete a hat-trick of stage wins on this year's Giro.
Instead, his team's best-laid plans were ruined by the bad weather. Viviani initially struggled to cope with crosswinds and while he made up lost ground inside the final 10km, he failed to keep pace during a late climb made in tough conditions.
Bennett, in contrast, came on strong down the stretch, allowing him to narrow the gap on the leader in the battle to win the points classification.
"I’m getting closer, but I'm just focusing on stage wins at the moment," he told the media after moving to within 22 points of Viviani.
"It's still a long race and I don't know what's going to happen. I don't want to be wasting energy during a stage and missing out on winning stages."
1. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 4:49:34
2. Danny van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo)
3. Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida)
4. Baptiste Planckaert (Katusha-Alpecin)
5. Jurgen Roelandts (BMC Racing)
1. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 51:57:55
2. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) +0:47
3. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +1:04
1. Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) 184
2. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 162
3. Marco Frapporti (Androni-Sidermec) 89
King of the Mountains
1. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 58
2. Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) 47
3. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) 36
Friday's ride starts out in Ferrara and, bar one small climb in the closing stages, looks ideal for the sprinters to shine in Nervesa Della Bataglia, weather permitting of course.
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