The images of Luke Plapp’s extensive road rash after his crash in the final 10 kilometres of stage 3 of the Tour Down Under made it clear the Jayco AlUla rider was going to have a painful recovery.
So much exposed red raw skin plus a team medical report that detailed a swollen ankle and elbow, meant it was no surprise when he didn’t line up to start the next day.
However, the green and gold jersey of the Australian national champion was back on the start line again on Thursday, testing his injuries and legs at the Surf Coast Classic ahead of Sunday’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race after a painful week of recovery.
“There’s been a lot of time in bed and just trying to get ready, dressing the wounds, screaming in the shower but it’s getting better each day and that’s why I’m really confident for Sunday … That’s what I have had my eye on since I crashed,” Plapp told Cyclingnews before the 155.5km race.
That’s why even though he was still sore and bandaged up, gingerly putting on his glove over an injured hand and wrist as he talked, Plapp was on the Lorne start line, though he wasn’t completely sure what the day would bring.
“I really love this race, I love these roads and I really want to be out here – especially for Sunday. Today is sort of here to test that out for Cadel’s and see if I can get through,” he said before lining up.
“I’m not sure what I am capable of or if I can ride but we will give it a crack.”
Plapp came into the summer season of racing on a high, first sweeping up the time trial title at the Australian Road National Championships and then adding his third road race win in a row.
After that there seemed little reason not to head into the Tour Down Under with high hopes.
The team was largely focussed on the sprints through the opening stages, but the weekend was where Plapp was expected to provide an extremely valuable ally for Simon Yates – who came second at the event in 2023.
Jayco AlUla’s hopes of turning that second into a first didn’t run to plan, with Yates coming seventh overall and the team ending their home race without a stage win or podium.
“The hardest thing was watching Saturday and Sunday,” said Plapp when asked about the challenges of having to sit out a race he had worked so hard towards.
“That really hurt to watch. I was quite emotional watching the Willunga stage, especially Lofty knowing that was something I worked towards and I think the way the race panned out I really wished I was there for Simon and the guys.”
“But I think the best part is that I’ve had my eyes on Sunday. Cadel’s had kept me really motivated and it’s what I’ve been trying to work towards in terms of getting better and trying to do all the recovery I can for Sunday.”
Plapp, who switched to the Australian team from Ineos Grenadiers at the start of this season, was testing his post-crash form ahead of the WorldTour race but there was also another reason.
“Just to help the team in anyway I can,” said Plapp.
“I definitely won’t be participating in the finish at the end, in terms of pushing and shoving and being a part of it, but if I can help the team control the race early or control the break, if that is possible then that would be great as an objective.”
Plapp was seen working near the front of the bunch in the earlier stages of the race and got through his first day of racing, finishing 77th place, in a group at a minute down on winner Biniam Girmay. The team’s top finisher was Caleb Ewan, in 12th
Sunday offers another chance and it now looks increasingly likely that the Australian squad will be lining up in its final home WorldTour race of the year with the jersey of the Australian champion amongst its line-up.
Screaming in the shower could be worth it for Plapp in so many different ways.