Growing up, the happenstance of Luke Plapp being born in Australia meant that as he was coming of age as a cyclist, UCI race days were at a premium.
However, since beginning his 2021 campaign, during which he would be unveiled as one of the latest young talents snapped up by the Ineos Grenadiers, getting out of Europe and back to his homeland is now the more formidable task.
"It's been quite hard, being based in Australia, to have the exposure to UCI races or even just racing over there [Europe] in general," Plapp said, having finished second in the men's U23 time trial at the Flanders World Championships. "But at the same time, I don't think that would have changed the goals I had on the track. The team pursuit at the Olympics was a massive target and I wouldn't have wanted to do more road."
Born on Christmas Day in the year 2000, Plapp became Australian national time trial champion at the start of the year before going on to take a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games as part of the Aussie team pursuit squad.
Now, he's about to begin life in the WorldTour, set to compete in a number of Italian one-day races, "I'm sorry if I don't pronounce these correctly" he said in the press conference, announcing he would be lining up for the Coppa Bernocchi on October 4, Tre Valli Varesine the following day and then Gran Piemonte on October 7.
"For sure, it could take a bit of time to get used to the road here. [These upcoming races] will be a good test to see where I'm at, what I learn from those few races I can develop in the off-season and I really hope to build on that. I'm really looking forward to the challenge of the next few years. It will be a shock to the system but I'm really looking forward to it."
The opportunity with Ineos came about while he was racing on home soil at the start of the year, Plapp revealed, riding the slimmed-down Tour Down Under as part of a national squad featuring Ineos' Richie Porte, Plapp breaking away alongside the Tasmanian up Willunga Hill, sitting up to applaud the senior rider as he crossed the line first.
"I rode Nationals and we had a local Tour Down Under where I was in the national team and had Richie in the team there, so that's how the Ineos gig came about," he explained.
"I've always looked up to them as a rider - their equipment, how they operate. Also it sort of suits the preparation and the past I've had with the track background, that's where they started and where their staff are from. So for me it was a really smooth transition into that team and somewhere I knew I'd feel comfortable straight away. I knew it was the right fit for me from the conversations I had before signing, it just felt right."
After his introduction to elite road racing in Italy, Plapp will then go to Roubaix for the Track World Championships to give racing on the boards "another crack", before, he hopes, managing to get home to Australia for Christmas.
"The situation over there is making it quite difficult," he explained.
More than 45,000 Australians (opens in new tab) are still stranded overseas as the government tightens arrival caps with the country still in the grips of strict coronavirus measures.
"I can't find a flight, so at the moment I might be here for the winter, but I would love to be able to get back to Australia, race the nationals and Tour Down Under again, which will just be a local event," Plapp said.
"With the Olympic build-up, it's been a while since I saw my family and friends, so it would be really nice to get home and see them over the Christmas period."
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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