• Luke Plapp celebrates after winning the time trial at the Australian national road championships (Con Chronis/AusCycling)Source: Con Chronis/AusCycling
The 20-year-old came into the time trial with a lot of hype around his performance at the Santos Festival of Cycling, but few were expecting him to dominate his competition in such stellar fashion, finishing over a minute ahead of four-time champion Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) and Kell O'Brien (Inform TMX MAKE).
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

3 Feb 2021 - 7:58 PM 

Luke Plapp (Inform TMX MAKE) came into the finish like a runaway train, with the knowledge that Durbridge had been the only one closest to him at the finish after a close midway point time check.

“It was a pretty nervous couple of minutes," said Plapp. "I didn’t have a timer, but I was counting in my head and I thought it had been over two minutes gone. To hug Blake (Quick, Plapp's best friend) after that, then the whole family, it’s pretty surreal.”

With a mix of people picking Durbridge or Plapp for the title after both showed tremendous form at the Festival of Cycling, it was Plapp who managed to dethrone the defending champion from the green and gold jersey.

"I dreamed of it. Don’t know if I saw it coming," said Plapp. "It’s been a massive goal and I cried across the line in Timmy Decker’s (track endurance coach) arms."

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Plapp was off to a fast start, with some rough calculations showing that he was 15 seconds or so ahead of Durbridge at the midway point, before extending his advantage into the finish.

“After the first lap I knew the power was around the mark, I got splits that it was really close," said Plapp. "About two minutes before I headed out my best mate, Blake Quick, said you don’t pin a number on to come second. That was a good rev-up and I’m stoked to pull it off.”

"We always know that Durbo turns up to nationals going super well, we saw that again last week. We’ve got my training partner Kell (O’Brien) who’s also flying. It’s unreal to be able pull it off, a really special day."

The time trial is known as the race of truth because it's not possible to use team tactics or hide from the elements when you're out there by yourself and Plapp revealed that a lot of preparation had gone into the stunning performance.

“We had a massive track block until November which was great for me and building speed," said Plapp. "Obviously spending a lot of time in the aero position on the pursuit bike helps. We went to Bright and had a massive camp with the boys. The TDU was great, it’s the first time we’ve had some racing and the best training is racing."

From here, the big goal for Plapp is the Olympics, but there's a lot of speculation floating around about what the bigger picture is for the 20-year-old in a WorldTour and even in the Olympic context, with a potential spot on the Olympics squad in the time-trial with Rohan Dennis and Durbridge vying for the two available positions.

“Look, we’ll see," said Plapp in answer to a question about a potential double Olympics berth on the track and in the time trial. "The team pursuit gold is the thing we’ve been focusing on the last two years and that’s what we’re going there to win.

"I reckon Rohan’s got that TT covered, so let him do his thing there. After that, I’d love to give the TT a crack at the Paris and LA Olympics."

Plapp was a minute faster out on course, but was docked twenty seconds because his follow car was within the required ten metre gap. Thankfully, the penalty didn't affect the outcome of the race, but technically Durbridge finished 42 seconds behind Plapp, with Kell O'Brien a minute and ten seconds in arrears.

Durbridge was magnanimous in defeat, giving the credit to the two younger men he shared the podium with.

"It was a really impressive ride by Luke Plapp," said Durbridge. "I expect we'll see much more of him in the future."

I just want to say congrats to Plapp and Kell, it's impressive to see the young guys and juniors coming through. I remember my first title, I was 20 years old as well, so well done to them." 

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