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Highlights on Off The Ball


'Cherry on the cake' | Sam Bennett will have the Champs-Élysées on his mind

Sam Bennett made history yesterday by becoming just the sixth Irishman to win a stage of the Tour...

Sam Bennett made history yesterday by becoming just the sixth Irishman to win a stage of the Tour de France, but now his focus will be on the Champs-Élysées on September 20th.

That's according to Corkman Stephen Barrett, a trainer with the AG2RLM team, who has previously worked as Strength and Conditioning coach with the Waterford hurlers.

Barrett joined OTB AM this morning, and told us that the icing on the cake for Carrick-on-Suir rider Bennett would be a final day sprint win into Paris.

"In terms of green jersey versus stage wins, if you asked Sam for sure he says 'I want to win the stage'. What's good for us now as spectators is he's got that box ticked with a stage win, now it switches tact and 'Let's go and win the green jersey.'

"The cherry on the cake really is trying to win a sprint on the Champs-Élysées on the last day, which again is the pinnacle of the Tour de France.

"On the last day is when you see people start to drink champagne, they go back to the team car, they have some photographs. But then with about an hour or hour and a half to go, it switches to race mode, and it's always a sprint.

"To top off a Tour de France with a win on the Champs-Élysées would be incredible."

The Irishman holds a 21-point lead on seven-time green jersey winner Peter Sagan heading into today's stage into Poitiers, and Barrett feels he can do enough to hold onto that lead.

"He has the green jersey so he is in pole position to hold it, but his mentality has to change now. In the past you win a stage and the sprinters' mentality when they go to the Alps, sprinters usually go into survival mode.

"They go as easy as they can to get through the days that they just don't like. For Sam he now needs to go into green jersey mode.

"What [Peter] Sagan is very, very good at doing is infiltrating breakaways on these medium- to high- mountain days.

"Every day on the mountains there's an intermediate sprint which is worth 20 points. Sam will have to mark Sagan and mark Matteo Trentin.

"He for sure has a big, big shout to take it all the way to Paris."

Barrett says 29-year-old Bennett is in the prime of his career, mixing it with the very best in the sport.

"Peter Sagan is box-office. He's the Neymar, he's the Ronaldo of cycling. Everybody wants to interview [him], everyone wants to be with him.

"Peter Sagan and Sam have the same attributes. For Bora, you've got eight guys in the Tour de France, and their objective every year is for Sagan.

"To not only step across [to Deceuninck–Quick-Step], but then to show his level of form, is a big thing. For his career it was a perfect move to go and show his ability.

"It's nice for people to realise - yesterday was a super stressful day but in the final sprint, it was a drag race. And it was Sagan versus Sam versus Caleb [Ewan], who are arguably the three fastest guys in the world the last three years, and Sam won.

"From a sprinter's point of view, he won pretty easily. The fact that Sam has kind of come out of the shadow of Sagan in the last few years and raised his game once more... the fastest guys in the world were at that race yesterday.

"Even going back to Stage One, it looks like Sam is probably the fastest guy in the world at the moment in terms of sprinting, which is awesome to see from an Irish point of view."

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Cycling Peter Sagan Sam Bennett Sean Kelly Stephen Barrett Tour De France