Luke Plapp has stamped himself as one of the most exciting young prospects in Australian cycling this year.
The 17-year-old’s incredible season has been acknowledged in the Cycling Australia awards, with the scooping of junior track cyclist of the year, junior road cyclist of the year and overall junior cyclist of the year awards.
“That was a really special night,” Plapp said. “I guess for me it was nice recognition for everything that happened this year and the hard work that I put in.”
Plapp showed his full potential by taking on the world’s best junior cyclists at major events this year.
The wunderkind from Maribyrnong earned two gold medals and a bronze at the Junior World Track Cycling Championships in Switzerland.
He came first in the men’s points race and combined with Queensland’s Blake Quick for first in the gruelling men’s madison.
As part of the team’s pursuit with Quick, Canberra’s Matthew Rice and South Australia’s Luke Wright, he won bronze.
“As a country, Australia doesn’t really go overseas and race any of the pre-races,” Plapp said. “We sort of just get thrown into the deep end straight away, so it was really amazing to be able to race everyone from the other countries because they race each other throughout the season.
“So for Australia to go over there and mix it up with them is pretty awesome.”
Plapp’s gold medal win in the madison was bittersweet.
It was a massive achievement for him and Quick, but as a late inclusion in the team, Plapp felt for teammate James Moriarty, who broke his collarbone in a training crash two days before the event.
“One of the golds I received, my teammate was meant to be racing in that race instead of me,” Plapp said.
“He unfortunately broke his collarbone two days before the event, so I got thrown into it at the last minute.
“To be able to win it for him – that’s what it felt like because it was his race – was really special.”
Plapp, who trains in Adelaide as part of an elite cycling squad, was thrilled to be able to share the gold medal experience with his coach, Matt Gilmore.
Gilmore was a superstar on the bike in the madison, winning a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics, and is proving to be a superstar coach.
“To have him in our corner was really helpful,” Plapp said.
Plapp fell just short of what he would have considered a perfect season. Having worked so hard towards the Junior World Time Trial Championships in Austria, nothing short of a gold medal would suffice.
But Plapp had to settle for silver, which, on reflection, was a fine effort given the calibre of riders he was up against.
“I guess you can’t win them all,” he said. “It was pretty amazing competition and the bloke [Remco Evenepoel] that won it is the best junior cyclist to ever come through the ranks.
“It was bittersweet. I was sort of disappointed initially and it took me a while to reflect on it. But once I did I was pretty stoked with the result, knowing just how good he actually is.”
Plapp, who is targeting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has earned a nomination for the Australian Institute of Sport emerging athlete of the year.
He is also in the running for the 2018 Don Deeble Rising Star award.