Irishman Bennett claims Race Torquay

Shayne Hope

With Australian sprint sensation Caleb Ewan among the mid-race withdrawals, Sam Bennett has avoided a crash on the final surge to win cycling's inaugural Race Torquay in brutal heat.

It was the Irishman's second-straight win in a Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road race warm-up after he saluted in Torquay's predecessor, Race Melbourne, at Albert Park this time last year.

Australian Jensen Plowright was left with a nasty gash on an arm after a crash that almost brought down the bunch 300 metres from the finish line on Thursday.

Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) was relieved to miss the carnage that unfolded behind him as he narrowly beat Italian Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling) across the line.

"I didn't see it, I don't know who was involved, but I hope they're OK," Bennett said.

"I just heard it behind (me). It sounded nasty."

Bennett continued his Australian summer hot streak, having arrived in December to acclimatise before tackling the Tour Down Under.

The 29-year-old won the opening TDU stage in his first competitive race since moving to Deceuninck-Quickstep and temporarily wore the ochre jersey.

He finished on the podium in three of the six stages and carried that form into Race Torquay.

Rival sprinters, including Ewan, struggled to get their legs going again on the 10 laps around a 13.3km Surf Coast circuit as temperatures reached 39C.

"They said it was made for the sprinters and it was a sprint in the end, but it gave an opportunity for guys to go in the breakaway and gave a bit of everything for everyone," Bennett said.

"If guys really raced it, it could have split a bit and could've been a select bunch into the end.

"It was a hard race, but at one point I asked the guys (teammates) to make it a bit harder for everyone else. They did exactly that, and did the perfect job."

Earlier, Lotto-Soudal's Ewan dropped off the back of the peloton and pulled out, possibly conserving his energy for the Cadel Evans race on Sunday.

South African champion Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) and Bennett's teammate Dries Devenyns formed a two-man breakaway for a long period but didn't have the numbers to hold onto their lead.

Tour Down Under champion Richie Porte was a notable omission from Race Torquay on his 35th birthday.

The Trek-Segafredo star will be back in action on Sunday.