Lucas Plapp will wear the national champion bands of Australia for the second consecutive year following a courageous elite men’s road race win at the 2023 Federation University Road National Championships.
The 22-year-old INEOS Grenadiers star left nothing in reserve on the final lap of Buninyong, firstly bridging across to the front of the race with a surge on Mount Buninyong which was followed by three separate attacks on the undulating terrain to the finish line.
The third and last attack with 1.6km to race was the nail in the coffin for Plapp’s remaining companions at the front of the race in Michael Matthews (Team Jayco AlUla), Simon Clarke (Israel Premier-Tech) and Drew Morey (Kinan Racing Team), with Matthews sitting up and neither Clarke nor Morey pulling through to chase the Melburnian.
The lull in the pace of the chase was all Plapp needed to set sail towards the finish on his lonesome and repeat his 2022 heroics.
Clarke prevailed over Matthews in a sprint finish and bike throw at the line for the silver medal, three seconds in arrears of Plapp.
THEY SAID IT
“I can’t believe that, lost for words to be honest,” Plapp said.
“There wasn’t anyone really missing here today, and that’s so awesome, isn’t it.
“I almost wish I was watching from the sidelines because it was such an amazing field.
“I didn’t know how to play it today, I really tried to bide my time and I don’t know what happened on that last lap but I can’t believe I pulled it off.
“I felt all good all race, there was that big move at the start that me, Benno and Clarkey missed, and it was real dangerous.
“We all looked at each other and just said we’ve got to take this up together and were all in.
“Did a really hard climb to bring that back and that kept us in the race.
“And then after that the heat sort of dwindled down everyone.
“It was a really weird race, it was quite negative. It wasn’t that quick considering the field that we had.
“I think having Clarkey there, I knew I had to race smart – he’s one of the smartest people I know and I rode with him all week at Bay Crits just trying to pick his brains a bit.
“I was just trying to think what he would do and I just can’t believe I pulled it off.
“I was almost lucky Bling was there because they looked at him and that gave me the chance.
“They’re (INEOS Grenadiers) pretty stoked I reckon. I’ve got to go over to them Tuesday night in Adelaide.
“I can’t wait to go over there (Tour Down Under) and keep this bike, keep this jersey, and start the Tour Down Under.”
“I kind of chased, did a big move to come across to Plapp, just before the top of the descent there, with about half a lap to go after the climb, and then we kind of stayed together all the way through,” Clarke said.
“I just said to myself that if Plapp goes again I’m going to make it up to Matthews to close it down.
“With him (Matthews) being the fastest sprinter, I felt like it was on him to cover that move and so when he went, I just said, ’alright, I’m all in on red, and I hoped he would chase and he was a bit undecided there, and a split second of indecision with a class act like Plapp and it’s all over.
“So, then I just said, ‘right, I’ve just got to come home with the best sprint possible’ and managed to put in another good sprint.”
[On the rest of the summer of cycling] “Look, I’ll work hard. With Israel being relegated to Pro Continental this year, we’re really motivated as a team to start the year off strong and on a good foot, and that starts here and next week in Tour Down Under,” Clarke said.
“So, I’ve worked hard to help the team with that goal and hopefully we can have a good week next week and then the week after back here in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong.”
“My plan was I felt quite good on the final climb so I really wanted to whittle that bunch down to a smaller group so I get attacked less I guess,” Matthews said.
“I had a big target on my back in that final so I was just trying to get rid of as many riders as I could, but unfortunately the famous Plapp was there also.
“I chased him a fair few times but the other two were just sitting on my wheel letting me chase Plapp down all the time and at some point you have to gamble a little bit and hope the other two do a pull to try and get him back also.
“Unfortunately, we all gambled at the wrong time and he rode away.
“I wasn’t even going to really race today but I was just going to be a bit of a help towards the team, always having me in the race we have another plan to wait for the deep final but then the other guys in my team can go early and try to make the break stick.
“It just gave us another option to try and win the bike race.
“Unfortunately, it came down to me in the end, where thankfully I had the legs to at least get on the podium.”