• Tom Benton on the attack at nationals Under 23 mens race (Jamie Finch-Penninger)Source: Jamie Finch-Penninger
Tom Benton soloed to a famous victory in the Under 23 men's road race, with his Inform TMX MAKE teammates Rudy Porter and Carter Turnbull escaping the chasing peloton to claim all the podium positions.
6 Feb 2021 - 5:24 PM  UPDATED 6 Feb 2021 - 5:26 PM

An ecstatic Benton made the most of his opportunity off the front of the race, soloing to victory ahead of a pair of teammates, though he didn't realise until after the finish that in fact he was the lead rider of a famous 1-2-3 finish, making it a triple celebration for the young rider.

Benton attacked from the early break of the day that formed on the opening lap, leaving behind his companions and holding off the chasing peloton to claim victory.

"I still can't believe it, it's sinking in slowly," said Benton. "I didn't think it would be possible to stay away all day, just the support of my team saying 'you can do this' got me over the line. I'm amazed."

Benton is normally in a support role in the Inform TMX MAKE squad, he's been riding in the Natiional Road Series for years now, but he hasn't showcased much race-winning ability in the past. That changed on the road of Mt Buninyong as he flew free off the front of the race and took out the victory.

"This is for sure the biggest ride I've ever had," said Benton. "I'm more of a team rider, moreso putting my ride for others and I don't get a lot of opportunities.

"I put my hand up for this race, I said if I can go in the early break I could be a chance and I took that with both hands. I can't believe it, it's the best result of my career to date, that's for sure."

Benton timed his attack for the final two laps, leaping clear on the intial, highway section of the Mt Buninyong climb just as it looked likely that the peloton would bring things back together for the race favourites to contest the win.

"In the middle of the race, it looked like the break was coming back and I thought 'that's day over'," said Benton. "With two laps to go I hit the other guys and the gap at the top of the climb was a minute and half. I thought just get over the climb once more and it's mine."

Benton has stamped his name in the history of the race, putting himself up in lights with the winners of yesteryear, riders like Simon Gerrans, Rohan Dennis, and many other WorldTour stars who have gone on to bigger things.

"I have been training pretty hard for this race," said Benton. "I had a slightly disappointing TT result, coming in fifth and I sort of took that emotion and brought it into today. I just wanted those stripes and I got them."

Inform filled out the podium with Rudy Porter and Carter Turnbull crossing the line together with time to spare on the rest of the field, a surprise to the solo winner as much as anyone else.

"I had no idea," said Benton. "The guys in the car said there were people behind but I didn't quite twig that they were my teammates. I saw them come across and it was unreal."

"Inform is 100 per cent the best team in Australia. The culture's amazing, the support they offer is phenomenal, everyone gets around each other and without that I don't think I would have got across the line today."

Fine conditions greeted the riders at the start of the Under 23 men's road race as a large field of 127 starters got underway in the early afternoon.

An early breakaway got clear on the first lap, with Zach Gilmore (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast), Luke Deasy (Rauland), Connor Sens, Robert Parker (Onyva Racing) and Tom Benton (Inform TMX MAKE) surging clear and getting a solid lead. 

The gap hovered at the minute mark for a few laps as the peloton, led by Oliver's Real Food Racing, kept the lead pegged. Deasy dropped from the break as the pace increased and the gap began to increase as the laps and distance covered ticked upwards.

The break of four's lead reached a maximum advantage of 2'50 with four laps, only for it to be reduced rapidly over the next few laps as Inform TMX MAKE took to the front of the race to set things up for their climbers.

The attacks from the peloton started with over 30 kilometres remaining in the race, Zac Johnson (Inform TMX MAKE) launched an attack with Jensen Plowright (Team Bridgelane) trying to follow the Tasmanian before both were recaught. Johnson was recaptured as Team Bridgelane set a formidable tempo to reduce the break's advantage to 50 seconds with two laps left to race.

Benton dropped his breakaway companions on the penultimate lap, and actually increased his lead to the peloton behind, with Plowright launching an attack to try and make it over to Benton.

The final lap saw Benton start with one minute and 27 seconds advantage on the peloton and he still had an advantage of 49 seconds at the top of the climb, with the attacks coming thick and fast from behind. Carter Turnbull and Rudy Porter attacked the peloton and were the strongest over the top, racing clear of the peloton together.

Benton soloed into the finish to complete a famous solo win, with Porter and Turnbull coming over the line together for a famous 1-2-3 for Inform TMX MAKE.