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First Irish to win two Giro stages since Stephen Roche in 1987 ... and the points competition is hotting up

Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett has won his second stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia, making him the first Irish cyclist to win two stages at the Italian Grand Tour since Stephen Roche did so when winning the overall during his 1987 Triple Crown year, when he also won the Tour de France and World Championship.

Bennett, winner of Stage 7 at Praia di Mare last week, launched his sprint early in the rain-soaked finale of today’s 214-kilometre Stage 12 from Osimo at the Imola motor racing circuit in Emilia-Romagna and would not be caught, with LottoNL-Jumbo’s Danny van Poppel leading the chasing pack home.

The 27-year-old’s victory sees him move within 22 points of Quick Step Floors rider Elia Viviani, who found himself on the wrong side of a split in the peloton today and did not contest the finale, in the points competition. With just three potential sprint stages left, the contest could go all the way to Rome.

Bennett said: “It was a tough final for a bunch sprint. There were two guys upfront. I didn't know how much energy they had left so I went early because I didn't want to let the stage get away from me.

“I didn't know if I would hold the lead. It worked to my advantage. I heard that Viviani was off the back … then that he was back. I wasn't sure. I just had to do my sprint. I think it's a nicer win than the first one.”

Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates finished safely in the bunch and retains a 47-second advantage against defending champion Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb at the top of the general classification.

Following the stage, Yates said: “I guess these were favourable weather conditions for an Englishman. And also for an Irishman!”

Tomorrow's 180-kilometre Stage 13 from Ferrara to Nervesa della Battaglia provides another rare opportunity for the sprinters in these year's race ahead of one of the most anticipated days of the 101st edition of the Giro d'Italia on Saturday, when the riders tackle a summit finish on the Zoncolan.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.