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Bennett rides smart to consolidate third

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/05/2016

George Bennett has consolidated third place overall on the Tour of California with a canny ride on stage four of the eight-day race.

The Kiwi, hit by illness early in the season, showed impressive strength to finish 3sec off the pace set by Slovakian Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) in the 215km stage which featured a grandstand finish at Laguna Seca Raceway.

Sagan took the sprint finish in 5hr 16min 33sec, edging 11 others on the same time, including yellow jersey wearer Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) of France.

Bennett (Lotto NL Jumbo) was three seconds astray in 18th place, backing up Wednesday's third-place finish in the gruelling 167km third stage.

At the halfway mark of the tour, Alaphilippe leads the general classification, 22sec ahead of second-placed American Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) with Bennett a further 15sec back.

Bennett told that he hadn't really raced since the Paris-Nice classic in March, with illness also dogging him during a brief stint at the Tour of the Basque in early April.

"It's always good to have a number on again, and California is a nice race to come back into," he said.

"There's a lot of road between here and Sacramento, so we will just see how it goes."

The only other New Zealander in the field, Patrick Bevin (Cannondale), finished 11:46 down in 103rd place and sits 93rd overall.

The 213km fifth stage travels through the vineyards of Lodi before an uphill finish in South Lake Tahoe on Friday (NZT).

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