With Nicolas Roche in the red leader's jersey and Sam Bennett as the winner of the third stage on Monday, the Vuelta a España is primarily an Irish party for the time being. The countrymen enjoy each other's success in Spain.
"It's very special that we were both on stage on Monday. I think it's a big thing for Irish cycling," said Roche.
The experienced rider from Team Sunweb defended his leader's jersey captured Sunday in the third stage. He saw from the belly of the peloton that BORA-Hansgrohe rider Bennett was the strongest in the mass sprint in Alicante.
It was the first time in history that an Irishman booked a stage win in a big lap while a fellow countryman was first in the rankings. Roche and Bennett had already discussed with each other via text message on Sunday evening that they could write Irish cycling history.
"Sam wrote:" Now that you are riding in red, I have to win a ride. That would be fantastic for Ireland, "said Roche. "I replied," Yes, it's the chance of our lives. " We also talked about it on the bike and there was much talk about it on social media as well. I am very happy for Sam, and also for the Irish cycling. "
Sam Bennett celebrates his stage victory in the Vuelta. (Photo: Getty Images)
"Proud that I won in the champion jersey"
The heyday of Irish cycling was in the eighties. For example, Stephen Roche (Nicolas' father) won the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the World Championship on the road in 1987, and Sean Kelly was the best in the Vuelta a year later.
In particular because of 28-year-old Bennett (ten wins in the WorldTour), Ireland is in the top twenty of the WorldTour country rankings this year.
"I am very proud to have won the Irish champion jersey on Monday, which means a lot to me," said Bennett, who had already achieved his twelfth seasonal victory. "I am very relieved, because on Sunday evening my legs still felt very bad."
The BORA-Hansgrohe sprinter will probably get another chance on the stage victory in the Tour of Spain on Tuesday. The fourth stage (from Cullera to El Puig over 175.5 kilometers) seems on paper suitable for a mass sprint, although 46 kilometers from the finish is the top of a third category climb.
The ride starts at 1.19 pm, the finish is expected around 5.30 pm.
See also: View the classifications of the Vuelta with Kelderman in place eight