There’s a sub-category of pro cyclist known as the sprinter-who-can-climb.
Frenchman Arnaud Demare is one. Aussie Michael Matthews is another. And today, on Stage 12, Irishman Sam Bennett made absolutely sure that everyone knows he is one too.
An otherwise pan-flat stage was disrupted by a climb towards the finish. A climb of several kilometres in length and an average gradient of around 4%. Not a mountain. Not a berg. Not a summit.
But a climb, nonetheless.
Bennett fancied the sprint finish that would follow the descent, and so was sure to position himself well as the climb progressed. He was sprightly, and visible. In control, in and around the first dozen riders.
Until the last couple of uphill kilometres, when suddenly he wasn’t.
He was dangling off the front, nonchalant, looking around. The race leader. Like a 2009 Alberto Contador eyeing up the competition. Assessing his rivals for weakness. A show of strength.
On a climb.
Did I mention he’s a sprinter?
He soon tucked back in, wisely, perhaps, and strapped in for a wet descent on a twisting road to the Imola racetrack and a gallop for the line. By this point the torrential rain of the day had eroded any pretence of order and routine.
The race was in dribs, and indeed drabs.
Bennett launched his sprint, WAY too early, like a lead-out man who’s forgotten his sprinter. He scorched past Ulissi and Betancur, the last of the day’s attackers.
His big rival, Viviani, was way back. Several minutes, in fact. A sprinter-who-can-climb proving today that he couldn’t climb – conditions and circumstances put paid to him many miles ago.
And with that, Bennett had won.
Climber, lead-out man, sprinter, and two-time Giro stage winner.
Surely, by now, a man in need of a nickname. After a sprint win at Imola, the home track of the mighty Ferrari (aka the Prancing Horse), there can be only one contender.
Sam “Il Cavallino Rampante” Bennett.
The Prancing Horse.
(Ferrari Image: By Brian Snelson from Hockley, Essex, England (Ferrari motif) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)