Irish champion Sam Bennett snatched victory in the rain in the first stage of the BinckBank Tour on Monday.
The Tipperary man, who rides for Bora-Hansgrohe, overtook Edward Theuns and Mike Teunissen in the final 100 metres as he came out on top in a bunch sprint at the end of the 167.2km section from Beveren to Hulst.
Bennett told the Tour’s official website: “I am really happy. I wanted to take that first win in my champion’s jersey as quickly as possible and now it happened.
“The legs were still hurting a bit from yesterday’s European Championships, but I was kept in front the whole time by my team-mates.
“It was a dangerous sprint, but in the final two kilometres I managed to use the sprint trains from the other teams. The rain made the stage a lot more nervous, but I’m not complaining now!”
After an early breakaway involving Baptiste Planckaert, Lars Bak, Lukasz Wisniowski and Aaron Verwilst, the peloton split into four groups following a mass crash on cobbles made treacherous by the rain, but the pack was reunited and the leaders reeled in with 2.5km to go.
Belgian Theuns led out the final sprint, but Bennett took him on the outside to claim the green leader’s jersey.