News / Sport

Wheels on fire: Brunswick riders blitz cycling calendar

Club can boast two national champions at the same time

Sarah Gigante celebrates her win in the Tour Down Under on January 14. Photo: Santos Tour Down Under/Facebook

Mark Phillips

A TRIO of young riders from Brunswick are the toast of Australian cycling after dominating the sport at the beginning of 2024. 

Sarah Gigante, Luke Plapp and Ruby Roseman-Gannon all learnt to ride competitively on the Brunswick Velodrome when they were in primary school. Now Plapp and Roseman-Gannon are national road racing champions, while Gigante has won the first major event on the world cycling tour of 2024. 

Plapp, 23, claimed the men’s road racing title for the third year in a row in Ballarat on January 7, while earlier that same day 25-year-old Roseman-Gannon won the women’s championship for the first time.  

Plapp also won the men’s time trial for the second time in his career, and Roseman-Gannon took out the women’s criterium which she also won in 2022. To cap it all off, another Brunswick alumna, Keely Bennett, 21, won the under-23 women’s criterium. 

Just days later, Gigante won the first Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) event of the year, the three-day Tour Down Under in South Australia. Gigante, 23, is also a former national champion, having won the road race in 2019 and the time trial in 2020 and 2021. 

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Brunswick Cycling Club president Tony Maughan said after scouring the record books he believed Plapp and Roseman-Gannon were the first cyclists from the same club to have won the men’s and women’s road racing titles in the same year. 

“It’s extraordinary,” Maughan said. “They’re all from the same cohort of kids that all raced, developed, competed and had fun together over the years. 

“They’ve all come through from the Sunday junior clinic racing together as kids and importantly they all pushed each other along and had a lot of fun along the way.” 

The ex-Brunswick cyclists are all now members of professional teams who spend most of their year on the European tour and are likely to figure prominently in selections for the Australian team for the Paris Olympics this year. 

Plapp has switched teams this year from Ineos Grenadier to the Australian-owned Team Jayco AlUla where his team mates include Australian sprint star Caleb Ewan and former Vuelta a España winner Simon Yates. 

He is the first man to win a hat trick of Australian road race titles and the first to win both the road race and time trial title in the same year since Luke Durbridge in 2013. He began competitive cycling at Brunswick at the age of 12, initially as an extra form of exercise to support his football and cricket. 

At this year’s national road race on January 7, Plapp and a team mate, Chris Harper, rode together for more than 100 km after dropping the peloton and getting the jump on a breakaway group. 

Unfortunately for Plapp, he was unable to finish the Tour Down Under later in the month, withdrawing from the event after he was injured in a bad multi-rider pile up during the third stage on January 18.

Gigante, who has also changed teams this year from Movistar to AG Insurance-Soudal after a frustrating period of illness and injury, was identified as a special talent early. Her Tour Down Under win is a major milestone on her climb to the world’s best. 

She was in ninth place coming into the 93km third and final stage of the women’s tour on January 14. But she left her rivals in her wake with 2.3km to go in the final ascent to the summit of Willunga Hill to win both the stage and the ochre jersey. 

Gigante grew up in Diamond Creek and began cycling at Brunswick from around the age of seven. In an interview before the Tokyo Olympics in 2022, she said the Brunswick club played a huge role in her development as a cyclist and as a person. 

Top: Plapp celebrates his hat-trick of elite road racing titles. Photo: Con Chronis/AAP
Middle: Roseman-Gannon crosses the finish line at the national championships. Photo: Con Chronis/AAP
Bottom: the three cyclists (circled) as juniors at Brunswick with Gigante front left, Plapp front right and Roseman-Gannon centre back. Photo: Brunswick Cycling Club

Roseman-Gannon is a couple of years older than Gigante and Plapp, and is a local girl who attended Northcote High School. This year she will be cycling with the LIV-AlUla-Jayco team. 

“Ruby started as a kid in the Sunday junior clinic,” Maughan said. “Her dad [Andrew Gannon] has been heavily involved in the club and is on the committee so her family are part of the DNA of the club.” 

At the national championships in Ballarat, Roseman-Gannon was part of a group of 11 riders, including Gigante, who all had claims on the title before she powered over the line in the final sprint of the 104.4km race. 

Maughan said he couldn’t be prouder of the young champions and the role his club had played in encouraging, fostering and guiding their interest in cycling. 

He said despite spending most of their time in Europe these days, whenever they were in Melbourne Gigante, Plapp and Roseman-Gannon would drop in on their old club and mentor younger riders. 

“It’s [a feeling of] overwhelming joy to see their hard work and persistence be rewarded,” he said. 

“They have all absolutely put in hours and effort and it’s just awesome to see their success come from their determination and persistence. It’s really powerful imagery for our other juniors coming through the club too who can dream about what they can achieve and what success is there if they want it.” 

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