Luke Plapp has been a revelation on the bike this season.
The up-and-coming track and road cycling star from Maribyrnong has surprised even himself with his results this campaign.
Plapp went into the year on the back of the best training program of his short career, but he did not envisage that it would lead to the kind of races he would go on to win.
The 17-year-old’s first big race win came on the road in the national under-19 individual time trial at Buninyong. He followed it up with first in the scratch race, teams pursuit and madison on the track in the nationals in Brisbane. In March, he took out the under-19 Oceania time trial in Tasmania.
Plapp suddenly went from the gutsy also-ran to a feared competitor overnight.
“I seriously didn’t expect anything for 2018,” Plapp said. “All throughout my junior career, under-15 and under-17, I never had the results or made the Victorian teams.
“I was always the person just missing out.
“I went into the year not really a favourite for any races.”
Once Plapp had a taste of glory, it became an addiction.
It spurred him on to prepare better and train harder in his pursuit of a breakout season.
Suddenly the three hours on the road every day, the one track session, three gym sessions and discipline away from the bike is paying off.
“When I got the first result in January, it was a real shock, but I was really pleased that all the hard work and training paid off,” Plapp said.
“From that, I just sort of believed and it kept spiralling from there, getting better and better.
“This is my last year in juniors and next year you move up into the seniors, so if you get results now, you’re going to get big offers from teams next year in seniors.
“It’s your quickest way to get your foot in the door as such.”
Plapp’s rewards will come later in the year.
The Maribyrnong College student has been selected to represent Australia in the men’s endurance category at the UCI Junior Track World Championships in Switzerland in August. He will spend time training with pro teams in Spain before jetting to Austria for the Road World Championships, where he will ride for Australia in the under-19 time trial and road race.
In all, Plapp will spend almost four months in Europe.
The Brunswick Cycling Club member is preparing for the trip with the guidance of Australian Institute of Sport coaches Shane Kelly and Matthew Gilmore.
“It’s going to be such an awesome experience,” Plapp said. “It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be full-time cycling and just training flat out, but I’m really looking forward to it.
“I know if it all pays off, it’s going to pay off hugely and could define my career.”
Plapp is not going to make up the numbers either. He is particularly focused on winning the time trial in Austria.
“My main goal is the road in Austria and that’s what I’m training for,” Plapp said.
“In my head, I’m going over there to win it, and that’s my goal.”
Plapp’s ultimate dream is to compete for Australia at an Olympic Games and earn a pro tour contract.
Plapp is the May nominee for the Don Deeble Rising Star Award.
The award, hosted by Sunshine Western Region Sports Club and
Star Weekly, recognises young athletes from the western suburbs who have achieved at state and/or national levels.
Plapp will receive $1000, donated by the Yarraville Club Cricket Club, and other prizes to help him achieve his sporting goals.