Luke Plapp and Chris Harper have coasted across the finish line together in triumph, capping Jayco AlUla’s unprecedented domination of the Australian road cycling championships.
Harper let Plapp cross the line ahead of him so he could become the first rider since John Trevorrow in 1978-80 to win three-straight elite men’s national road race titles.
The two teammates broke away with about 115km left in the 185.6km road race, held for the last time on the testing Buninyong circuit near Ballarat.
They won by more than six minutes, pointing to their jerseys as they finished, then watched as fellow Jayco AlUla rider Kelland O’Brien won a three-rider sprint for the bronze medal.
Earlier on Sunday, Ruby Roseman-Gannon had the biggest win of her emerging career when the 25-year-old won a star-studded sprint to take out the women’s elite road race.
Plapp also won the time trial on Thursday and Roseman-Gannon took out the women’s criterium on Friday.
Caleb Ewan won the men’s criterium, meaning women’s time trial winner Grace Brown was the only elite champion at these championships not in a Jayco AlUla jersey.
Plapp not only led home a Jayco AlUla trifecta in the road race, but the team had the first four home in the time trial.
Australian cycling great Mat Hayman, now a men’s team director at the team, said their unprecedented domination of the nationals was a credit to Gerry Ryan.
He has owned the team, Australian cycling’s only WorldTour squad, since it started as GreenEDGE in 2012.
“Today was something I don’t witness very often – and phenomenal,” Hayman said of the men’s trifecta.
“I can’t say enough good things about Gerry Ryan and the organisation. It hasn’t gotten stale … we love winning and I hope Australia can keep getting behind us.
“The reason Gerry had this team was because there was no Australian team at the Tour de France.”
Plapp left British team Ineos Grenadiers to join Jayco AlUla and has made the perfect start to a season. He plans to ride the Giro d’Italia and hopes to compete at the Paris Olympics.
“It’s just an amazing way to start with this team. It’s been great fun, the last week,” Plapp said.
“Harps is amazing, he told me very early on that it’s mine, and I can’t thank him enough. He’s such a class act and such a gentleman.”
But Harper admitted that given how strong Plapp was riding, he probably could not have outsprinted him at the finish.
“I was quite happy to see him win, but to be honest he was probably riding stronger anyway. He definitely deserves it,” said Harper, who also won silver in the time trial behind Plapp.
“The important thing was to bring the jersey back to the team.”
The nationals triumph also comes at the end of a horrific week for the team, and for the sport generally.
A minute’s silence was held before the start of the women’s road race on Sunday morning in honour of former GreenEDGE rider Melissa Hoskins, who died a week ago.
The popular mother of two was the wife of fellow retired cyclist Rohan Dennis, who faces traffic charges over her death.
“We’re humans and it’s a tragedy we can’t comprehend,” Hayman said.
It was the 18th time Ballarat and the testing, much-debated circuit at Buninyong have hosted the nationals since 2002.
AusCycling is yet to announce where next year’s championships will be held, with speculation the event will go to Perth.