Inform goes 1-2-3 as Tom Benton wins the Aussie U23 road race title

The early break survives in an Inform masterclass.

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BUNINYONG, Australia (CT) – Inform TMX Make has swept the podium in the U23 men’s road race at the Australian Road National Championships.

Tom Benton took an impressive solo victory after a swashbuckling ride from the early breakaway. His teammates Rudy Porter and Carter Turnbull broke clear of the peloton in the final lap to take silver and bronze respectively.

“I still can’t believe it,” Benton said after receiving his green and gold jersey, visibly shaking with excitement. “It’s sinking in slowly. I didn’t think it would be possible to stay away all day. Just the support of my team, everyone saying, you can do this, just got me over the line. I’m amazed.”

Benton was part of a five-rider breakaway that got clear on the first of 12 laps of the 11.6 km Mt. Buninyong circuit. Benton, Zack Gilmore (ARA-Sunshine Coast), Connor Sens, Robert Parker and Luke Deasley built a lead that grew to nearly three minutes by the end of lap 8, before the pace increased in the peloton.

By the start of the 11th lap, just Benton, Sens and Gilmore remained out front, their lead down to under a minute. On the lower slopes of the penultimate ascent of Mt. Buninyong, with the peloton closing in, Benton made his move.

“I just saw that the other guys were slightly weaker,” he said. “There were gaps between the wheels on the climb so I just … it wasn’t a full-gas attack, it was just sort of testing them out and there were more gaps and I thought ‘this is the time to go’. So I went solo with about a lap and a half to go.

“I got the gap and just [put my] head down, got over [the climb], and tried to recover. And it was ‘Just one more climb’ – that was all my mind was thinking.”

At the top of the climb Benton had around a minute and a half over the peloton. The gap was the same when he returned to Buninyong to start the final lap as a few riders set sail from the peloton, trying to bridge across. While Benton’s gap came down over the course of the final lap, he had enough of a buffer to sit up and celebrate a hard-earned victory.

Behind Benton, the chasers had been caught and Porter and Turnbull had punched away from the peloton. Some 25 seconds after Benton celebrated his victory, Porter led Turnbull across the line, the pair celebrating a dominant 1-2-3 for the team.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Benton said of Inform sweeping the podium. “The guys in the team car said there were people behind but I didn’t quite twig that they were my teammates. When I saw them come across it was just unreal. It was just such a good day for us. Yeah, phenomenal.”

The remnants of a splintered peloton thundered across the line at 42 seconds, led in by Jensen Plowright (BridgeLane) who had attacked several times throughout the race.

Porter (right) and Turnbull completed a clean sweep for Inform.

For 21-year-old Benton, the victory is easily the highlight of his young career.

“I’m more of a team rider,” he said. “Quite often [I’m] putting my ride for others so I don’t get a lot of opportunities. I’d been putting my hand up for this race. I said ‘If I go up in the early break I think I can be a chance.’ So I just took that with both hands and Patty Lane believed in me, our DS. I can’t believe it. It’s definitely my biggest result to date, that’s for sure.”

From here Benton will head to next Saturday’s Melbourne to Warrnambool. After that it’ll be a case of wait and see.

“No one really knows with COVID,” he said of his racing calendar. “It’s obviously all up in the air if we go overseas or just contest the NRS [National Road Series] races. Nothing seems to be super locked in, so yeah, [I’ll] just take it as it comes basically.”

Follow the link for full results from the U23 men’s road race.

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