The men’s elites cycling season is officially under way. It started on the 12th of January with the individual time trial event, won by Rohan Dennis. This marked a comeback of the Rohan Dennis & Luke Durbridge show. In five of the past six editions of the race this due took gold and silver medals. The only exception was last year when Luke Plapp was crowned Australian time trial champion and Durbridge was second, as he was this year (Dennis didn’t participate). The reigning champion was a close contact of someone who was positive to covid which forced him to relinquish his title.
Rohan Dennis didn’t really give anybody else a chance, not even his archrival, finishing 1m13s in front of Luke Durbridge. Conor Leahy, silver medalist in the under-23 event last year, took home the bronze medal, 1m48s behind the winner.
Yesterday, in the road race, things were different. The national championship races are usually dominated by the strongest team from the country which, in this case, is undoubtedly Team BikeExchange Jayco. But yesterday, only three riders from the only Australian World Tour team took part in the race: defending champion Cameron Meyer, Luke Durbridge and Callum Scotson. Team Jumbo-Visma with Rohan Dennis and Chris Harper almost matched BikeExchange Jayco in terms of strength in numbers.
From the beginning it was clear that no team was going to be able to control the race. Rohan Dennis tried, and did bring his teammate, Harper, close to the front of the race when the deciding attacks took place. James Whelan, from Australian Continental Team Bridgelane, who last year rode for EF Education Nippo, attacked from the slim group of favorites with around 40km in what would prove to be the deciding move of the day.
There were no teams that could take control of the group of favorites so the strongest really prevailed. Whelan quickly made the bridge to the front of the race while behind, in the group of favorites, Luke Plapp (Ineos) escaped as well, with an impressive burst of speed.
When Plapp caught Whelan on the final climb there was no hope for the Bridgelane rider. Luke Plapp left him behind with ease and opened up a 45 second gap until the finish line to win the Australian road race championships for the first time.
Luke Plapp won the silver medal in last year’s under-23 world time trial championship as well as the Australian time trial championship. He showed tremendous ability and maturity in this race to take home the Australian champions’ jersey. Ineos scooped him up last year and he is already proving to be a very valuable asset for the British team.
In a race where individual riders had much more of an advantage than in previous years, Luke Plapp (easily) proved to be the strongest of the bunch.
Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange Jayco) and Chris Harper (Jumbo Visma) were 7th and 9th, respectively, arriving in the favorites’ group. Both riders tried to escape from the group of favorites at different points of the race, but, in the end, just couldn’t match Plapp’s strength on the day.