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Australia’s Remco? Rising star Luke Plapp impresses with national time trial title

Sarah Gigante defends TT crown, with Plapp expected to fast-track into the WorldTour after Tokyo Games.

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Luke Plapp is Australia’s “next big thing,” and the 20-year-old proved it by blasting to the Australian national time trial title Wednesday.

Plapp set a record on the 37.5m course in Ballarat in 46:00.73, stopping the clock 42 seconds ahead of defending champion Luke Durbridge, with Kelland O’Brien completing the podium. Top stars Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte did not race, but Plapp’s result was impressive enough.

“I dreamed of it, but I saw this coming,” said Plapp, who stepped up from the U23 ranks to race against the elite pros. “It’s been a massive goal of mine, and I’m just proud to cross the line in first because this is pretty special.”

WorldTour pro Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) is no slouch, and tipped his hat to his young rival.

“It was a really impressive ride by Lucas Plapp, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of him in the future,” Durbridge said.

Plapp has been bubbling beneath the surface the past few years, including second in the junior world time trial championship in 2018 behind Remco Evenepoel. A product of Melbourne’s Brunswick Cycling Club junior development program, he joined the Australian Olympic Track Team for the Olympic Games.

In the short-term, he will focus on the Tokyo Games, and will be part of Australia’s rotation for the men’s team pursuit, where they will be battling Italy, New Zealand, Great Britain, and Denmark for the medals.

After that, Plapp should fast-track into the WorldTour. One team manager told VeloNews that several WorldTour teams are already trying to put his signature to paper.

Plapp’s profile rocketed in last month’s the Santos Festival of Cycling, which included a stage victory while also riding in support of Porte.

COVID complications almost kept Durbridge from a title defense, with the Perth-based cyclist undergoing last-minute COVID-19 controls just as he was boarding a flight to Victoria.

“It was stressful, it’s definitely not what you expect,” Durbridge said. “In these times with COVID it’s what you’ve got to do. We acted quite quickly and applied for an exemption and I was lucky enough that they supplied me with one. There were COVID tests last night at 10 o’clock, I arrived at Ballarat by about midnight and then got the all-clear at about nine this morning.”

Sarah Gigante defends TT crown

Sarah Gigante defended her elite and under 23-time trial crowns, 17 seconds ahead of the 2019 champion Grace Brown (Team Bike Exchange). Nicole Frain (Sydney Uni – Staminade) rounded out the podium a further four minutes behind.

The 20-year-old, also one of the rising stars of the Australian peloton, joined the American outfit Team Tibco–Silicon Valley Bank in the 2020 season and is coming off a big win at the Santos Festival of Cycling last month.

“I think I heard someone say my time was two minutes quicker than last year, which I’m pretty stoked about, but it’s lucky I leveled up because Grace (Brown) also leveled up,” Gigante said. “I think it’s just super important to love what you do. Obviously, I wouldn’t be standing here if I didn’t love what I do. It’s true you have to push through some difficult times and some pain, but if you love your bike and riding with your mates, that’s the key”.