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Santos Festival of Cycling headliner Richie Porte plays domestique

Richie Porte riding for Team Garmin Australia at the Santos Festival of Cycling
Richie Porte riding for Team Garmin Australia at the Santos Festival of Cycling (Image credit: Sarah Reed)

Luke Plapp’s (Team Garmin Australia) impressive win on the second day of the Santos Festival of Cycling was not the only thing the 20-year-old was excited about at the end of stage 2. The fact that he had a WorldTour professional like Richie Porte fetching bottles for him earned a mention as well.  

Porte is the big draw at the South Australian event, with the four-day National Road series race replacing the cancelled Tour Down Under on the calendar this year, but he had no problem stepping into a support role for the up-and-coming riders of the Team Garmin Australia squad.

The 2020 Tour de France podium finisher is heading back to Ineos Grenadiers as a super domestique this year, and he started fulfilling the role early, working alongside EF Education Nippo rider Jimmy Whelan to help the Australian track team riders riders Plapp and Kelland O’Brien on stage 2 of the four-day event. The Tasmanian was regularly seen on the front of the bunch pulling in the break so the young Australian riders would have their chance to fight for stage victory, using the final Fox Creek climb as a launching point.

“To have Richie in the team and Jimmy Whelan, their guidance, and they were the ones going back for bottles: you couldn’t believe it. We are the track riders and they are the WorldTour pros and they are getting bottles for us,” said Plapp after the stage.  

It was support that delivered results, with Plapp’s first place accompanied by a fourth  spot for teammate and fellow young rider Kelland O’Brien.  

“Of course, I’d heard all about him [Plapp] and he just showed today what a huge talent he is. It’s really impressive for him and Kell to just ride away like they did,” said Porte.

“It’s just nice to come here and have a good bunch of guys. Everyone is motivated and to pull it off today is a great feeling. I think guys like him are the next generation that’ll be in Europe and winning races.”

Porte wasn’t the only one impressed by the show of strength, with the wearer of the overall leader’s jersey, Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange), commenting that the squad didn’t know that Team Garmin Australia had “a little secret up their sleeve” with Luke Plapp on that climb. 

“We didn’t expect to him go as hard as he did … it was an impressive ride and we’re just happy that we held the jersey.”