Tom Benton – The year so far
From the keyboard of Melbourne University Elite Athlete Program & M.U.C.Y.C member Tom Benton. The year so far.
As for so many athletes, 2020 saw minimal competition and posed an excellent opportunity to reset and enter 2021 with a clear mindset and fresh motivations. Entering my last year as an Under 23 before heading into the elite category, the Australian national championships was where all my drive lay. I saw it as one of my last opportunities to take home a medal at a national championship and so I didn’t leave many stones unturned in the lead-up to the first week of February when nationals were to be held. The key target for myself was the time trial, which I believed would be my greatest chance of getting on the podium. Unfortunately, goals are sometimes exceeded by reality and come the day of the time trial, I would find myself coming home in 5th place. It simply wasn’t my day and I knew I was capable of more. A result many would be happy with, but as alluded to, missing the podium felt as if I’d just missed my last chance to ever make a national podium.
After a couple of days of clearing my head from the time trial and using this as motivation for the road race, I went in with one plan; To make the early breakaway and never be seen again. Making a plan for a bike race is typically a waste of time as they generally go out the window in the first few kilometres of a race. However, on Saturday the 6th of February, everything just fell into place. Finding myself in the early breakaway that went away on the first of 12 laps, I was exactly where I wanted to be. 140km later, I would be crossing the finish line, by myself, and with my hands in the air. It was a “do or die” strategy, and that day I did. After years and years of commitment to such a demanding sport, I was finally taking home a green and gold jersey.
The following weekend to nationals was what was supposed to be the date of the Melbourne to Warrnambool (Warny). However, 2021 had other plans. With the 3rd Covid breakout, Melbourne entered lockdown the day before the scheduled Warny, and so the theme of 2020 returned, cancellations and rescheduling of races.
After a couple of weeks off the bike, training was to resume with the next goals lying at the re-scheduled Warny on May 1st, and the Grafton to Inverell the following weekend. Having a fairly uneventful first 200km in the Warny, it would become a game of follow as many moves until the bunch would crack, leaving a smaller group of riders to head to the finish. Unfortunately for myself this bunch was still about 20 riders large, and not quite having the legs to make any meaningful final attacks, I found myself rolling in home in 15th place. No big results for myself or my team to write home about, but that’s bike racing, often it just won’t be your day.
The following week my team had its glory, with my team mate taking out the Grafton to Inverell. It meant for a fairly cruisy ride for myself as I was only responsible for following moves as he put in an almost identical ride to mine at nationals. No complaints, another excellent day out.
The rest of the year looks full of uncertainties. Having missed many opportunities already for the year thanks to all the restrictions around the world has made for some frustrating times, but obviously I’m not the only one. Hopefully I’ll be able to get over to Europe for the last half of the year, but again, it’s so hard to know if this will become a reality, and if the scheduled races overseas will even be going ahead.
For now I continue on the pedals, finding the odd occasion to fit in some study for my upcoming end of semester exams. And with that, I cannot thank the continued support from Melbourne Uni’s elite athlete program that’s contributed to the achievement of my biggest sporting goal, without hindering my ability to continue my studies.