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Champions headline star-studded field, Plapp chases hat-trick

Luke Plapp, 2022 and 2023 elite men's road race Australian champion

Sixteen former Australian champions will headline a star-studded field at this week’s Federation University Road National Championships in Ballarat.


Leading the way are Luke Plapp (Team Jayco AlUla) and Brodie Chapman (Lidl-Trek), who will return to Ballarat to defend their road race titles. If Plapp succeeds, he will become the fourth rider in history to win three consecutive championships.


Tour de France stage winners Caleb Ewan (Team Jayco AlUla) and Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) have also confirmed their participation, while multiple national champions Grace Brown (FDJ-SUEZ), Amanda Spratt (Lidl-Trek) and Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) stand out in a highly competitive women’s field.


Sam Welsford (Bora-hansgrohe), Miles Scotson (Arkéa - B&B Hotels), Kelland O'Brien (Team Jayco AlUla), Sarah Roy (Team Cofidis), Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon // SRAM), Georgia Baker (Liv AlUla Jayco) and Maeve Plouffe (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL) are just some of the other big names who will start their season in Ballarat.


The national championships are Australia’s most prestigious annual races. The winners earn the right to wear the distinctive green-and-gold champion’s jersey for the next 12 months.

The 2024 Road Nationals will begin on January 3 and 4 with time trials at Federation University’s Mt Helen campus, where Luke Plapp and Grace Brown will start as favourites.


Racing continues on January 5 with the criterium championships in Ballarat’s CBD. The twilight races bring the tantalising prospect of a duel between world-class sprinters Ewan and Welsford.


The first road races take place on January 6, when the junior and under-23 men’s titles will be decided. For amateurs, the mass-participation Gran Fondo will also be held on the closed roads of Buninyong.


Finally, a ‘Super Sunday’ on January 7 will see Australia’s best cyclists and para-cyclists battle for the coveted road race national title on the iconic Buninyong course. With the return of the fan area on Mt Buninyong – the ‘GWM Go With More Chillout Zone’ – thousands of spectators are expected to line the mountain.


"It’s super special to race around Ballarat," Plapp said. "I love the terrain. I think that course offers a different race for everyone. You can have Caleb [Ewan] coming second one year, or a climber winning it the next.


"It’s a brilliant atmosphere. We love it as riders; you can feel everyone getting more excited and energetic as the laps count down. And it all comes down to that final showdown lap."


The elite criteriums and under-23 road race will be streamed live on SBS On Demand, while Sunday’s elite road races will also be broadcast by SBS and Fox Sports.


This will be the last edition in Ballarat before the road national championships move to a new, yet-to-be-announced location for 2025.


“I love that race, it’s got a special place in my heart, and hopefully we can make this last year the best," Plapp said.


Former elite champions on 2024 start list:

Men

  • Luke Plapp (Road Race ’22, ’23, Time Trial ’21)

  • Kelland O’Brien (Criterium ’23)

  • Sam Welsford (Criterium ’20)

  • Caleb Ewan (Criterium ’16, ’17, ’18)

  • Miles Scotson (Road Race ’17)

  • Steele von Hoff (Criterium ’14, ’15)

  • Michael Hepburn (Time Trial ’14)

Women

  • Grace Brown (Time Trial ’19, ’22, ’23)

  • Brodie Chapman (Road Race ’23)

  • Amber Pate (Criterium ’23)

  • Nicole Frain (Road Race ’22)

  • Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Criterium ’22)

  • Sarah Roy (Road Race ’21, Criterium ’14)

  • Sarah Gigante (Road Race ’19, Time Trial ’20, ’21)

  • Amanda Spratt (Road Race ’12, ’16, ’20)

  • Peta Mullens (Road Race ’15)



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