The images of Luke Plapp after he rolled over the line after picking himself up after a crash in the final 10 kilometres of stage 3 of the Tour Down Under made it pretty clear the Jayco-AlUla rider was going to have a painful recovery ahead.
So much exposed red raw skin visible as well as a follow up team medical report that mentioned a swollen ankle and elbow along with the superficial wounds, so it was no surprise when he didn’t line up to start the next day. However, the green and gold jersey of the Australian champion was back on the start line again on Thursday, testing the waters 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 … and that’s what I have had my eye on since I crashed,” Plapp told Cyclingnews before the 1.1 classified 155.5km race.
That’s why even though he was still sore and bandaged up, 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 last year – however the team plans of turning that second into a first didn’t run to plan, with Yates coming seventh overall and the team walking away without a stage win or podium.
“The hardest thing was watching Saturday, 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…