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TORQUAY, Australia (CT) – The inaugural men’s Race Torquay was billed as a day for the sprinters and that’s what it turned out to be. After three hours of hot racing on Victoria’s Surf Coast, and after two strong breakaways were nullified, the race came together for a bunch kick.
As daylight faded on Torquay’s beachside esplanade, Irish national champion Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) won the sprint to claim his second win of the year. Italian duo Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) and Alberto Dianese (Sunweb) were second and third respectively, in what was a reduced peloton of just 21 riders.
“I was really happy with that,” Bennett said. “The guys did an amazing job all day. It was pretty hard at the start after a few days off after doing Tour Down Under and actually [that] got the legs kind of going.”
The pace was frenetic as riders completed the first two laps of a lumpy 13.3 km circuit around Torquay. A group of five got clear on the second lap, allowing the peloton to relax a little. But on lap 6 Bennett and his Deceuninck-QuickStep teammates spotted an opportunity.
“When the race was a bit more controlled, the boys came up and said the other sprinters were suffering a bit,” Bennett said. “So I said, ‘well, the harder we go the better I’m feeling so let’s start the racing again.’ And so we tried splitting it into a bit of a crosswind.
“And I think that kind of caught everyone off guard … except Elia [Viviani],” chuckled Bennett. “He was straight on it. I couldn’t catch him out, unfortunately. I think it helped and it brought the breakaway back really, really quick and then started the racing again. So I was happy with that.”
With the group of five caught, Bennett’s teammate Dries Devenyns and Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) were the next to attack. The pair got clear on lap 7 of 10 as pre-race favourite Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) drifted off the back of the bunch, his day done.
Impey and Devenyns got to 50 seconds ahead of the bunch, but by the time the final lap began, the race was all back together. There were a few attacks in the closing lap but the race was destined to end in a bunch sprint.
“It kind of all came together and it worked out really, really well,” Bennett said. “And then, of course, the guys did a fantastic job in the final. So, yeah, I kind of got an armchair ride to the line.”
Bennett will go into Sunday’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race as one of the riders to beat … assuming he didn’t go too deep today.
“I just hope I didn’t use too much legs today,” Bennett said. “But yeah, it was good to open the legs and get going. Good for the confidence as well. When the racing got harder, I felt better.
“And so when I’m suffering on Sunday, I just have to remind myself that the legs are there.”