Sam Bennett’s two-day spell in the green jersey has done nothing to dampen his hunger for a stage win at the Tour de France.
The Irish sprinter this week managed to dislodge former world champion Peter Sagan from the points classification the Slovakian has practically made his own in recent years – even if it was only for 48 hours before Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team determinedly wrestled it back on stage seven.
But though his spell in green ensures Bennett will not go home empty-handed whatever happens from now on, the Deceuninck-QuickStep rider is clear he has not yet got what he wants.
“It was a real enjoyable moment in the Tour, it was great,” he said. “But at the end of the day I haven’t won the green jersey.
“It would be too easy to settle for it and say I’ve done something but I haven’t really done much, I just held it for two days.
“I think I should definitely take some confidence away from it but I haven’t completed anything I came here to do, so the pressure is still on.”
Bennett should get his chance when the Tour resumes after Monday’s rest day, with Tuesday’s stage 10 to Ile de Re Saint-Martin-de-Re and Wednesday’s stage 11 to Poitiers both offering hope to the sprinters before more mountains beckon.
Bennett has watched Alexander Kristoff, Caleb Ewan and Wout van Aert celebrate sprint to victories so far, but said he has taken confidence from the opening week even as his own ambitions were frustrated.
“A lot of the days I came out more confident than when I was going in,” he said. “The legs have been there. I’ve definitely felt quick enough.”
It seemed his moment had come on stage three to Sisteron as Bennett led the pack towards the line, only to see Ewan shoot past him at the last minute.
“At 70 metres to go I was almost thinking about how I should celebrate my first Tour de France win, but he came past so quickly,” Bennett said.
“Normally if someone is coming off your wheel they don’t come past so fast. At 70 metres I had that gap, I thought it was a sure thing, but he was coming from such a distance and getting sucked along, he came past so quick.
“But I saw that it’s doable to get a stage win here.”
Bennett, who became the first Irishman to wear green in the Tour since the great Sean Kelly won the classification for the fourth and final time in 1989, remains only seven points behind Sagan, 138 to 131.
The 29-year-old is keen to keep fighting in the classification for as long as he can, but is wary of using up energy which could be better spent on the sprint stages.
“Green is about consistently being up there,” he said. “You never really get to switch off. You have to focus on the starts, on the intermediate sprints, and on the finish. When you’re just going for stages there are days you can relax, so it has taken a bit away.
“Now I want the green, but I came here for a stage win and I really want that in the next few days.”