Luke Plapp has joined Jayco AlUla, signing a four-year deal, in a move which has seen him break his Ineos Grenadiers contract early.
The Australian champion is "coming home" to the Australian squad, the announcement early on Tuesday morning said. The man from Melbourne joined Ineos at the beginning of 2022 after a battle between five WorldTour teams for his signature, despite never having ridden a road race outside of a national, continental or world event.
“It honestly does feel like I'm coming home, I'm such a proud Australian and to now be able to ride for the Australian team, it's a real honour," Plapp said. "I just can't wait to get started; the next four years are going to be amazing on this team."
The back-to-back Australian champion is one of the biggest talents to come from his country in recent years, and Jayco clearly sees the 22-year-old as a star for the next decade, with his four year contract. He will likely ride a Grand Tour next year, with his goals also including the Paris Olympics, but he is thought of as one for the future, a possible replacement for Simon Yates, eventually.
In his short professional career to date, Plapp has finished on the podium of the UAE Tour and the Tour of Norway, as well as finishing second in the under-23 individual time trial in the 2021 World Championships. He has various other top tens at WorldTour level, but is without a win other than at the Australian national championships.
He rode the 2022 Vuelta a España, but was restricted to week-long stage races in 2023, a decision which might have contributed to his departing Ineos.
Plapp is not the first big name to leave Ineos this off-season; he follows in the wheel tracks of Tao Geoghegan Hart, Ben Tulett, Pavel Sivakov and Dani Martínez. Tulett is also 22 and thought of as a future GC star, in a similar way to Plapp.
The British team finally announced their first signings for 2024 last month, with AJ August and Óscar Rodríguez joining, and Geraint Thomas among those getting a contract extension.
Jayco AlUla, meanwhile, have signed six riders so far for next year, including young climbers Mauro Schmid, Davide De Pretto and Anders Foldager.
Plapp singled out Jayco AlUla's owner Gerry Ryan for particular praise in his signing announcement.
"I can't thank Gerry Ryan and the team enough for this opportunity," he said. "Gerry has done so much for Australian cycling and to now be on his team and to be able to ride for him, it makes me really proud and super grateful. I can't wait to achieve great things together.
"It is such a great group of guys and I know so many of them already so I'm really looking forward to kicking things off well in my first race with the team."
Brent Copeland, the team's general manager, said that it was "very exciting" to sign Plapp, an "incredible talent".
"Luke is still a very young rider; we are motivated to work with him and have him grow with us as a team into the future," he said. "With our strengthened climbing group for the coming season, Luke will have a good support team around him, and we are looking forward to seeing him challenge for general classification success and continue to aim for top results in time trials."
In a post on social media, Ineos Grenadiers said: "Following two strong and memorable seasons, Luke Plapp is heading to a new team in the peloton from next year. Always a Grenadier, we’ll see you out there on the road Plappy!"
Read more: All the pro peloton transfers for 2024
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