Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) took his first victory of the season as he sprinted to victory in the Towards Zero Race Melbourne, a prelude circuit race to the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, which takes place on Sunday.
Completing laps of the 5.3km Formula One circuit in the centre of Melbourne, Bennett took victory for the second year in succession, beating a stellar sprinting field in the process.
A strong breakaway formed early for the 22-lap, 116.6km race, with Owain Doull (Team Sky), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jose Goncalves (Katusha-Alpecin), Nathan Earle (Israel Cycling Academy), Peter Koning (Aqua Blue Sport), and Chad Haga (Team Sunweb) in the move.
However with Quick-Step Floors and Mitchelton-Scott leading the chase behind, the pace was fast throughout with an average speed of nearly 30mph, with Doull and Haga eventually being dropped from the front group.
The peloton eventually made the catch with a little more than two kilometres remaining with Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) looking the favourites to take the win with their lead-out trains in front of them.
However Bennett was in close contention, and as Ewan found himself being forced to open his sprint too early as he was left stranded on the front, the Irishman accelerated past, holding off the advances of Viviani to take his first win of the 2018 season.
The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is the second event of the WorldTour season, and is centred around the town of Geelong, Victoria, with Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb) being the men’s defending champion, and Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) having won the 2017 edition of the women’s race.
Towards Zero Race Melbourne 2018: Melbourne to Melbourne, 116.6km)
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 2-29-08
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
3. Steele von Hoff (Aus) Kordamentha Real Estate-Australia
4. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb
5. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
6. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
7. Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Den) Katusha Alpecin
8. Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky
9. Robert Wagner (Ger) Team Lotto NL-Jumbo
10. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb, all at same time