Sam Bennett doubled Ireland’s cause for celebrations in the Vuelta a Espana as he took victory on stage three while compatriot Nicolas Roche kept the leader’s red jersey.
Bora-Hansgrohe’s Bennett briefly looked to be out of position on the final approach to the line on the harbourside in Alicante, but once the 28-year-old turned on the power nobody was able to keep up and he took a comfortable victory.
Ed Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) came in second and third as the Carrick-on-Suir rider laid down a marker in the first sprint of the race after looking off the pace a day earlier.
“I can’t tell you how relieved I am with that,” he said. “I felt so bad yesterday, I can’t tell you how bad I was on the stage.
“Thanks to the team I could relax and follow them and trust in them and they got me in the right place at the right time to make my effort. If it was’t for the team today I wouldn’t have got it.
“I’m delighted to get it. It means a lot to get another Grand Tour victory, especially in the Irish national champions jersey. I’m very proud to wear it.”
The sprint finish meant no change to the general classification, in which Team Sunweb’s Roche leads by two seconds from Nairo Quintana of Movistar after finishing second to the Colombian on stage two.
It was Bennett’s first career Vuelta stage victory and fourth in a Grand Tour after his star turn at last year’s Giro d’Italia.
The 28-year-old has been in outstanding form this season, with this his 12th victory in total, yet he confirmed on the eve of the Vuelta he still does not have a contract for next season.