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BALLARAT, Australia (CT) – Luke Plapp (Inform TMX Make) has stormed his way to an elite Australian time trial title, beating four-time champion Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange) in the process.
Plapp completed the 37.5 km course in 46:00 (48.9 km/h average), 43 seconds faster than defending champion Durbridge who took the silver medal. Plapp’s road and national track squad teammate Kel O’Brien finished third at 1:10.
At just 20 years old, Plapp was due to compete in the U23 time trial but changed his registration to the elite race last week at the suggestion of Richie Porte. The move paid dividends, with Plapp scorching around the course to take his first elite national title.
Plapp and Durbridge finished the first of two laps with similar time splits, but Plapp pulled ahead as the kilometres ticked down.
“After the first lap I got told I was up on most people and I was real close with Durbo – it was about within five seconds we thought,” Plapp said. “For the last lap I didn’t get a [time] gap, I just got [told] it was really close and to keep going. But I could sort of hear the excitement in Patty’s [sports director Pat Lane’s] voice and that gave me a bit of a boost. He wasn’t telling me the gap, but I knew I was probably going to be up in just the way he was talking.
“It was very special and I guess that drove me all the way to the line. I think when you know you’re up, you get a bit extra in the system.“
After crossing the line Plapp rolled to a stop on a patch of grass where he dismounted and fell to the ground, exhausted. Durbridge had started two minutes after Plapp, so anything more than a two-minute gap at the finish would mean victory for Plapp.
“It was a pretty nervous couple of minutes,” Plapp admitted. “I didn’t have a time but I sort of counted in my head [and] I was like ‘I think that’s been two minutes gone!’ I had all my team around me, had Blake [Quick], my best mate, so that was really special to give him a hug at the end. And then I went and found the whole family straight after that. It was pretty unreal and surreal.”
The win is Plapp’s second impressive result in a few weeks after he took a stage win and finished second overall at the Santos Festival of Cycling. As reported on CyclingTips, that ride attracted the attention of more than five WorldTour teams and today’s win will be further confirmation of his considerable talent.
For Durbridge, winner of the last two editions, silver wasn’t the result he was after, but he was quick to pay tribute to the man who beat him.
“Especially after the last couple of years I would like to have won, but it was a really, really impressive ride by Luke Plapp,” Durbridge said. “I’m sure we’ll see much more of him in the future. But, yeah I’m not disappointed with my ride. Obviously, there were some areas for improvement. My numbers were a little bit down on last year — I was a bit flat out there today. But look, I gave it my best performance. I’m not upset. That’s all you can hope for. It was touch and go if I could get here anyway.”
Just yesterday Durbridge was in coronavirus lockdown back home in Perth. He faced a last-minute scramble with several administrative hurdles just to take the start line.
“I think we acted quite quickly and applied for an exemption [to leave Western Australia and enter Victoria],” Durbridge said. “I was lucky enough that they granted me one with the appropriate processes, with lots of COVID tests, a COVID test last night at about 10 o’clock at night, arriving at Ballarat by about midnight, and getting the all clear at nine o’clock this morning, and then got out on the road. So, yeah, it has been a stressful 48 or 24 hours.”
Earlier in the day Carter Turnbull and Conor Leahy made it an Inform TMX Make 1-2 in the U23 men’s time trial, with Turnbull winning by 45 seconds. Patrick Eddy (BridgeLane) rounded out the podium at 1:40.