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    Tour de France 2015: Lanterne Rouge - stage 15

    Irish sprinter Sam Bennett is enduring a baptism of fire at his debut Tour de France, but the quick man from Carrick-on-Suir won't give up without a fight

    Timothy John
    BrakeThrough Media
Racing cyclist, earring, laughing, interviewed by man in blue suit, Tour de France 2015, team presentation, Sam Bennett

They call it the gruppetto and today it was a mixed bunch indeed.

The men who trailed in last did so in numbers: 25 in total, crossing the line in Valence some 15.41 after Lotto-Soudal’s André Greipel had thrust his arms aloft in triumph.

Here was Etixx-QuickStep's Mark Cavendish, the hot favourite for the sprints in the absence of another German, Marcel Kittel. Here was Cavendish’s pilot fish, Mark Renshaw, and, more surprisingly, Greipel's right-hand man, Marcel Sieberg.

The presence of sprinters and their henchmen at the tail end of the race on a hilly stage in the second week of Grand Tour is no real surprise, but today’s grupetto contained representatives from several other of the peloton’s varied constituencies.

The rising star tipped one day for GC success? Step forward, Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE). The 22-year-old had been among the protagonists the previous day. His young legs clearly required greater time to recover.

Yates has also been ill this Tour, and the sick and injured were present in the grupetto too, in the form of Cannondale-Garmin's Nathan Haas, the last man home on stage seven, and Top Banana Jean-Christophe Péraud, who might embody the phrase “bloody, but unbowed”.

The hardmen of the Northern Classics claimed a place among the final 15, too: Trek’s Stijn Devolder, twice a winner of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, and young Sepp Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), who will hope to emulate him, both endured a day of suffering.

Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon18) receives special mention, however: a member of today’s grupetto, and last on GC by more than 15 minutes, the Irish sprinter is suffering a baptism of fire in his debut Tour.

He trails the maillot jaune, Chris Froome, but nearly three-and-a-quarter hours, but should he make it to Paris, expect this other quick man from Carrick-on-Suir to be at the sharp end, while Team Sky's leader seeks only safety.

Bennett is a beguiling property: blisteringly fast, and fresh enough to value the opportunities now coming his way. We spoke to Bennett shortly after he won the final stage of the Tour of Qatar, having seen off the likes of Peter Sagan and Alexander Kristoff. The French race was in his thoughts then.

He will not leave it easily.



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