Tour Down Under: Irish national champion Sam Bennett wins opening stage .

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Irish national Road Race champion Sam Bennett leads the Tour Down Under after winning a tight sprint finish in Tuesday’s first stage.

The Waterford rider, 29, edged out Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen by half a bike at the end of the 150km stage.

It is the perfect start to the new season for Bennett, in his first race for his new Deceuninck-QuickStep team.

“I’d be lying if I’d said I didn’t feel the pressure to get that first win,” he said.

“I am very happy it came today, on the very first stage of the season’s first race.”

Bennett enjoyed an excellent 2019 campaign, becoming national champion in June before claiming two stage victories at the Vuelta a Espana.

He now takes a four-second lead over Philipsen into the second stage of the Australian tour.

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