This article originally appeared on Velo News
Sam Bennett started stage 7 of the Vuelta a Espana expecting to be dropped on the day's mountain and to lose his green jersey to Mads Pedersen, but instead extended his advantage over the Danish Trek-Segafredo rider.
The Irishman did come under pressure on the first categorized climb, Puerto de San Glorio, and was detached before the summit by the fast pace-setting of Pedersen's squad, but made a quick return with his Bora-Hansgrohe teammates.
In the end, his fears of losing green proved unfounded, and he instead regretted not getting the stage win.
Vuelta a Espana stage 7: Jesus Herrada wins as breakaway holds off peloton
Vuelta a Espana: Mads Pedersen's plans don't pay off as breakaway takes the win
Sam Bennett misses green jersey ceremony as Vuelta a Espana staff pack away podium around him
"I am disappointed. I had a bit more to give today," he said at the finish, having won the bunch sprint for sixth, 29 seconds behind the winner Jesus Herrada (Cofidis).
"The breakaway was so strong and to be honest, I didn't really expect to be there today. Then the moment we saw that I was making it over the climb, the boys really committed. They did an incredible job, but we just couldn't catch the break."
With 10 kilometers to go it seemed more likely that not that the leaders would be reeled in. The gap had fallen to one minute there, but a combination of the break's determination and a lack of commitment by some teams in the bunch meant those out front were able to stay clear.
"I want to thank the guys. They went so deep to try to bring it back," Bennett said. "I am happy to keep the points jersey, to be honest. I really expected to lose it today, but thanks to the teammates for really looking after me. A super job."
Sports director Bernie Eisel was complementary about the Bora-Hansgrohe effort.
"The whole team rode incredibly well. After the mountain, we didn't push on right way as we had to make sure that BikeExchange and Arkea came back. When they joined back on, we looked at how strong the group in front still was, especially with regard to the intermediate sprint. We saw that the group wasn’t to be caught back before the intermediate sprint.
"Sam then won the sprint from the peloton and now has a 15-point lead in the points standings, so not a significant buffer. We'll probably take the jersey into the rest day and then we'll see how it progresses from there. There are still two weeks ahead of us, and especially now there are two hard days coming up in the mountains here in the north of Spain. We'll have to see that our GC riders also make it through well."
Bennett's pre-stage lead of nine points over Pedersen has now increased to 15 points. Equally significant will be the boost to his confidence, with those pre-stage expectations of being dropped contrasting utterly with his post-stage regret in not taking the win.
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