Stars cycling in Geelong

Luke Plapp after his win at the national championships in Ballarat.

Australian time trial cycling champion Luke Plapp and world track champion Kelland O’Brien are set to headline a major road race passing through Geelong’s north on Saturday.

The Melbourne to Warrnambool Cyclic Classic leaves Avalon Airport at 7.45am with an official start time of 8am when the peloton reaches Princes Freeway.

Police will enforce a rolling road closure as the peloton travels down the Freeway and along Geelong Ring Road.

Police will close all Geelong-bound lanes on Princess Freeway and south-bound lanes on Geelong Ring Road for the riders, with motorists required to travel behind the peloton or find an alternative route.

Organisers expect the last of the cyclists to exit Geelong Ring Road onto Hamilton Highway by 8.45am.

Plapp, 20, will join the race less than a fortnight after toppling four-time time trial champion Luke Durbridge at the national championships in Ballarat on February 3.

The new Australian champion finished a minute faster than his rival and will join TMX MAKE teammate O’Brien, who finished third in the trials.

Both ride for Australia in the team pursuit squad aiming for gold at the Tokyo Olympics in July.

The pair will be under the guidance of Inform sports director Pat Lane for the 267km race on Saturday.

“We’ve never won it, we had Nathan Elliott with the team, unfortunately he won it before he came to us,” Lane said.

Plapp shapes as the team’s trump card, with the 20-year-old phenom winning a series of races in recent weeks.

“He’s a really impressive athlete, this is his third year with the team,” said Lane.

“He can drive us nuts at times with doing every little one percenter, that’s the reason he’s so good. The effort he puts in and gets out of himself is so impressive.

“That’s why you see him at 20-years-old winning the elite time trial, it’s great to be part of it.”

But the time trial specialist is used to shorter efforts. The classic is the longest one-day race in Australia and about 67 times the length Plapp’s event at the Olympics.

“He’s pretty into the road for these two weeks, he likes to take these opportunities, and I’m sure he’ll be desperate to do well,” Lane said.

Teams focusing on Plapp could provide opportunities for TMX MAKE’s other riders, according to Lane.

“Hopefully, they sit around and look at Luke and the other guys can slip away,” said Lane.

“All seven of our guys can win the race, so we have a lot of cards to play there.

“Kell O’Brien, Mark O’Brien, those guys are also favourites.”

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