Sam Bennett edges UAE Tour sprint finish, Tadej Pogacar remains in red
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MARJAN ISLAND – Irish rider Sam Bennett claimed the sprinting honours with a 50th career win on the fourth stage of the UAE Tour on Wednesday as Slovenian Tadej Pogacar retained the leader's red jersey.
Bennett, riding for Deceuninck-Quick-Step, beat David Dekker, Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani at the end of the 204-kilometre stage that started and ended at the tourist resort of Marjan Island.
"It feels good to win my first sprint of the season," said the 30-year-old who won the Tour de France sprint green jersey in 2020.
"I was really nervous before the sprint because it was the first fast bunch finish of the year for me."
Pogacar, of UAE Team Emirates, retains a 43-second cushion over British Ineos Grenadiers rider Adam Yates in the general classification.
"It was a pretty long and hot day in the saddle," said Tour de France champion Pogacar.
"It was a shame that our sprinter Fernando Gaviria didn't win, but we have another opportunity tomorrow," he added, referring to Thursday's fifth stage which ends at Jebel Jais, for the second summit finish of the event.
Poacar was already focussed on clinching the Tour itself, which could be achieved Thursday on the culminating 21km climb, with Yates and third-placed Joao Almeida still lurking close enough to punish any slip by the Slovenian.
"The next stage is going to be super hard. We all know how strong Adam Yates is. I hope to have good legs again," added Pogacar.
Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is also at the event, albeit in a bid to raise his fitness and get to know his new teammates at Israel Start-Up Nation.
"This is the next step in my preparations to be ready for the Tour de France," Froome said Saturday. He then told the British daily the Guardian this week: "I obviously have a long way to go."
The 35-year-old winner of seven Grand Tours sits in 43rd here, 14mins and 59sec off the pace.
Italian veteran Vincenzo Nibali -- the only other active rider in the peloton to have won all three Grand Tours -- is also warming up for the Grand Tour season here and sits in 18th position, 10min 42sec behind Pogacar.