Darren Lapthorne's 2010 was hardly a year to remember. A contract with the Pegasus project proved too good to be true when the team abruptly collapsed, leaving the Australian one of many caught without a team for the 2012 season, and questioning his future in the sport.
Nearly 12 months on, Lapthorne is back enjoying racing thanks to a life-line offered by his former team, Drapac. Although now working full-time to support himself, the 28-year-old explained to Cyclingnews that his craving for competition meant he wasn't quite ready to call it quits.
"At the start of the year I still didn’t know whether I wanted to pursue it, whether I wanted to just do it to stay fit etc. I had a couple of months of going ‘easy’ before I realised that I really do still love the competitive side of the sport still. I just enjoy racing too much.
"When Drapac approached me, I just thought it’d be perfect to get back into racing, with them, I’ve had so many great experiences with them over the years - it all just clicked."
Admittedly, Lapthorne concedes that the while constraints of working full-time makes cycling less of a 'career', he does see an upside.
"There’s considerably less pressure, because I’m of my job, I’ve got something to come back to if a race doesn’t quite go as planned," explained Lapthorne. "I’ve really got nothing to lose, and I think it’ll make me a bit more of a risk-taker when it comes to races."
"I’ve approached training in a different way. In the past it was all about doing the Ks but, this year with the constraints of time, I’ve really just tried to go as hard as possible in training to get the most out of it. I’m doing almost a quarter of the Ks - but when I do get to go out It’s really to enjoy riding."
A former Australian Road Champion, Lapthorne is building toward the Herald Sun Tour in October, and is using this weekend's Tour of the Murray River to get some much-needed racing in his legs. The flat parcours of the race are unlikely to suit Lapthorne's strengths, but he didn't rule out the possibility of a stage win on one of the more selective stages.
"I’m going to 'Murray' in more of a support role; even if I was in peak condition, its really not a tour that would suit me," said Lapthorne. "The race is dead flat, and it’s usually a race that is won on sprint bonuses."
"I have won a stage there in the past, and I have had good results there in the past, but as far as the overall goes, I’ve got no aspirations to do well there. It’s very much a part of my build up for the Herald Sun Tour, which has been a big goal of mine since the start of the season.
"The Murray Tour is eight days long and fatigue definitely plays a factor, so maybe I can try something in the second half of the race. We'll see."
The Tour of the Murray River starts on Sunday with a 36km criterium around Yarrawonga.