Luke Plapp (InForm TMX Make) stepped up to the elite ranks early and straight into the green and gold jersey of the Australian time trial champion, delivering a clear win over favourite Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) at Australia's 2021 Federation University Road National Championships.
The 20-year-old rider finished almost a minute ahead of Durbridge in the 37.5 kilometre elite men’s time trial while it was another first timer in the category, Kelland O’Brien (InForm TMX Make), who came third.
As the race against the clock began to play out Plapp was clearly in flying form, coming through the first lap of the course outside Ballarat almost having caught the rider in front.
“After the first lap I knew the power was around the mark. I got a split that said it was still really close. It was all in for that last lap,” said Plapp.
Last year’s under 23 time trial winner then came through that last lap with an extra burst of energy as the excited feedback he was getting meant he knew there was a good chance he was ahead, but after crossing with a time of 45:40.73 it was still a tense wait to see if that was going to be enough to stop Durbridge taking the win for a third year in a row.
“It was a pretty nervous couple of minutes. I didn’t have a time but I was sort of counting it in my head and was like I think that is two minutes gone,” said Plapp, who was surrounded by his team and best friend as he waited.
“It was pretty unreal and surreal and I was pretty speechless actually.”
It was a big task to unseat Durbridge, who won his first Australian time trial title when he was the same age as Plapp. Not only has he taken the win the past two years against former two-time world time trial champion Rohan Dennis but was also entering this year’s race fresh from a GC win. Durbridge set himself up for victory, ahead of Plapp, at the Santos Festival of Cycling with his powerful ride in an 80 kilometre solo break on the very first stage.
“Obviously I’m disappointed. You come to the nationals and, especially after the last couple of years I would have liked to have won but it was a really really impressive ride by Luke Plapp. I’m sure we will see much more of him in the future,” said Durbridge.
The defending champion had an unexpectedly difficult run in to the race, as Durbridge went to Western Australia after the Santos Festival of Cycling and then a COVID-19 case lead to the implementation of border restrictions for those trying to come to Victoria from areas in and around Perth. That made even making it to the start line “touch and go”.
“It was stressful. It was not what you expect, but in these times of COVID it’s what you’ve got to do and we acted pretty quickly and applied for an exemption. I was lucky enough that they granted me one with the appropriate processes, with lots of COVID tests” said Durbridge. “So yes it has been a stressful 48, 24 hours. “
“The team just really went in to bat to get me here so I wanted to repay them with a good performance and obviously second is all I had today but hopefully I get a bit more rest before Sunday and will be a bit better.”
The time trial was the opening event in the Australian Road Championships, which was delayed about a month this year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The criterium and elite road races are set to play out on Friday and Sunday.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Lucas Plapp (Aus) Inform TMX Make||0:46:01|
|2||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Team Bike Exchange||0:00:43|
|3||Kelland O'brien (Aus) Inform TMX Make||0:01:11|
|4||Chris Harper (Aus) Team Jumbo Visma||0:01:28|
|5||Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Team Bike Exchange||0:03:01|
|6||Alastair Christie-Johnston (Aus) Team Bridgelane||0:03:27|
|7||Kane Richards (Aus) Meiyo Ccn Pro Cycling||0:03:44|
|8||Jordan Villani (Aus) Giant Racing Team||0:03:47|
|9||Angus Lyons (Aus) Ara - Pro Racing Sunshine Coast||0:04:03|
|12||Harley Moore (Aus) Futuro Pro Cycling||0:04:31|
|13||Jordan Louis (Aus) Veris Racing||0:04:37|
|16||Oliver Stenning (Aus) Ara - Pro Racing Sunshine Coast||0:05:04|
|29||Patrick Saccani-Williams (Aus) Velofit Australia||0:08:54|
|30||Willem Van Wyk||0:09:15|
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