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Luke Plapp to make Ineos debut in October races in Italy

Luke Plapp (Australia) won the silver in the Under 23 time trial world championships
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Luke Plapp will make his Ineos Grenadiers debut in early October, with the Australian talent set to ride a trio of autumn Italian Classics.

The 20-year-old officially joined the British team in a stagiaire capacity at the start of August but has yet to make an appearance, instead of representing Australia at the Olympics, Tour de l'Avenir, and World Championships.

After winning the silver medal in the U23 time trial at the Worlds in Flanders on Monday, Plapp revealed his plans for the next few weeks. He's down to ride the Coppa Bernocchi on October 4, followed by Tre Valli Varesine the next day and Gran Piemonte on October 7.

"At the moment, I think they are the three I'll do," he said during the medal-winners press conference. "It's not confirmed but that's the plan."

They'll be the first professional UCI-classified road races Plapp will have done, and he's bracing himself for a 'shock to the system'. His ambitions on the track, coupled with the global pandemic, have limited his road racing experience so far but he's keen to kick-start the learning process before joining Ineos on a full-time basis and a three-year contract in January.

"It's been quite hard, being based in Australia, to have the exposure to UCI races or even just racing over there [Europe] in general, but at the same time, I don't think that would have changed the goals I had on the track. The team pursuit at the Olympics was a massive target and I wouldn't have wanted to do more road," he said.

"For sure, it could take a bit of time to get used to the road here. [The Italian races] will be a good test to see where I'm at. What I learn from those few races, I can develop in the off-season, and I really hope to build on that. I'm really looking forward to the challenge of the next few years. It will be a shock to the system but I'm really looking forward to it."

Despite that relative inexperience on the road, Plapp had a suite of WorldTour suitors interested in his signature for 2022. That was largely due to his victory in the elite time trial at the Australian nationals back in January, but it didn't take long for him to choose Ineos. Citing the influence of compatriot and soon-to-be-teammate Richie Porte, as well as the British team's track roots, he has no doubts he's in the right place.

"The only road racing I did this year was at the Australian Summer. I rode Nationals and we had a local Tour Down Under, where I was in the national team and had Richie in the team there, so that's how the Ineos gig came about," Plapp explained.

"I've always looked up to them as a rider - their equipment, how they operate. Also, it sort of suits the preparation and the past I've had with the track background; that's where they started and where their staff are from. So for me, it was a really smooth transition into that team and somewhere I knew I'd feel comfortable straight away. I knew it was the right fit for me straight away. From the conversations I had before signing, it just felt right."

Plapp, who said he was "extremely satisfied" with his silver medal in the Worlds time trial and credited the winner Johan Price-Pejtersen for a "massive ride", will not line up for the U23 men's road race later this week. Instead, he will soon head to Italy to make that Ineos debut, before returning to the track for the World Championships in Roubaix.

After that, things are up in the air due to the ongoing pandemic. He'd like to head home for the off-season but if not, he'll be spending the European winter in Girona, where he has a base - against the advice of Porte, who was encouraging him to join the Monaco contingent.

"I go straight from Italy to Track Worlds in Roubaix, so will get back on the track and give that another crack. I'm hoping to get back to Australia but the situation over there is making it quite difficult," Plapp said.

"I can't find a flight, so at the moment I might be here for the winter, but I would love to be able to get back to Australia, race the nationals and TDU again, which will just be a local event. With the Olympic build-up, it's been a while since I saw my family and friends, so it would be really nice to get home and see them over the Christmas period."

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.