Luke Plapp will race the team pursuit at the Tokyo Olympics… and then fly to Europe for the next stanza of his career. After national team service, he’ll join the Ineos Grenadiers team in 2022.
– Click the link below to watch RIDE Media’s interview with Luke Plapp. –
“We’re not talking about the track at the moment,” says Luke Plapp with a big grin. He’s in the hotel where the Australian track cycling team is based in advance of competition on the velodrome that begins in a couple of days.
The 20-year-old has burst into prominence in recent years as a TT wizard, track cyclist extraordinaire, and a rider with huge potential on the road racing scene. And, while waiting for the team pursuit to begin in Tokyo, he pinged me a note and suggested he had something to speak about.
It’s official now, and Plapp was just itching to explain his news.
“As of the first of August, I will be a WorldTour professional, riding for the Ineos Grenadiers.”
It is officially transfer season and Plapp is one rider who was being courted by a number of high-profile WorldTour teams. Ultimately, he picked the one that he believes suits his characteristics the best.
“It’s pretty special to be part of a team that big,” he says shortly after naming the outfit that began as Team Sky, became Team Ineos, and then morphed into what’s now known as the Ineos Grenadiers.
“It has always been a dream for me to end up there,” says Plapp from Tokyo, where he and the rest of the Australian team have effectively locked themselves away from all distractions (and, as best they can, attempted to avoid any risk of COVID infection).
“When you see what they’ve done so far at these Games…” He grins at the thought of what he’s witnessed (on TV) in recent says. “I think it was pretty incredible watching Tom [Pidcock] in the mountain bike [race] and also ‘Richie’ Carapaz in the road race.”
Next year he’ll be team-mates with both those guys, two riders who still have time to run on their Grenadiers contracts. Exactly who else remains is yet to be formalised but for now Plapp believes that he’s in a good position to exploit some of the special powers that the Ineos Grenadiers’ management has.
The road cycling team was, of course, largely born out of Team GB’s hugely successful Olympic program and although it has become particularly cosmopolitan the heritage it has with the track is significant, and relevant to Plapp.
“For me personally, I’ve always looked up to that team. I love my TTs and I think there’s no better team in the world to go to if you’re a time trialist than Ineos. At the same time, with my track background, I think that’s the best team for me in terms of how they structure their team.
“The riders that they’ve had come through the ranks, I think they really know how to deal with the track riders and the team pursuiters. We’ve seen them be able to transform some of the best team pursuiters in the world to Grand Tour winners.
“So, for me, that’s where I want to end up so it’s a bit of a no-brainer, I guess, to go to Ineos and try to follow in the footsteps of Geraint, ‘Wiggo’ and even, as we’ve seen, Rohan now… and they’ve also got Ganna and Hayter there at the team, who are doing the exact same thing as me on the track at the moment.”
Geraint Thomas’ future with the team is yet to be determined. Wiggo left long ago but his record remains – from the last individual pursuit Olympic gold medallist to winner of the Tour de France in four years… and that fills Plapp with inspiration.
The terms of the contract have been formalised and Plapp says he’ll still have some freedom to pursue his track cycling ambitions while also getting an introduction to road racing at the highest level.
Other teams in the bidding…
For a considerable time, it seemed like the best offer for Luke Plapp would be one from UAE Team Emirates who were one of several outfits to express an interest in the TT national champion. The team that has won the Tour de France in 2020 and 2021 is building a strong base of young talent including Plapp’s Kiwi mate, Finn Fisher-Black.
Plapp says it would have been nice to race alongside the young New Zealander but he also explained that he and Fisher-Black share similar traits… and so instead of racing on the same team, they’ll become rivals in 2022.
“We went through quite a few teams, and I really did weigh up almost all the teams and their pros and cons,” says Plapp about making the decision on which offer to accept. “I took quite a few months to really decide what I thought would work best for me.
“UAE were definitely one of the front runners, as well as Jumbo, DSM and Bike Exchange… I really did want to be a part of the Australian team, but just for where I want to go in the future I just don’t think that was the right fit for me.
“I guess I’ve always dreamed of riding for Ineos as a kid, growing up and seeing what they do. That also had a massive part to play. It’s completed the dream to be able to go there and be a Grenadier.”
– By Rob Arnold