Former Australian under 23 time trial champion Matt King will make his return to racing with search2retain at the FKG Tour of Toowoomba, which begins June 14.
King, 23, was threatening to be an entry in the 'whatever happened to' books but within the Melbourne-based combined road and mountain bike team, has found the perfect environment as he relaunches a career.
Speaking to Cyclingnews from his Northern Territory home, King said he'd been "all over the place" since he stepped away from full-time racing in 2009. There were the usual stints of working in bike shops, and he even worked as an operator in the mines in the resource-rich north of the country but the endurance specialist still dabbled in racing, mainly in mountain bike and triathlon, enough to finish as runner up on a stage of the gruelling Tour de Timor last year.
Apart from his 2008 national title, King's best result came in 2007 racing for the Australian under 21 team in Germany where he won time trial at the Thüringen-Rundfahrt World Cup, beating the likes of Tony Martin, Tejay van Garderen, Thomas De Gendt, Ian Stannard, Marcel Kittel and Jerome Coppel
"I definitely came up with a lot of great guys," King acknowledged. "That was an interesting result. There was myself, Pat Shaw, Simon Clarke, Hayden Josefski and we only had one proper time trial bike. That was supposed to be with Hayden because he was the top time trialler at the time but the day before he'd unfortunately crashed so the bike got handed to me. We came away with a pretty cool result."
King's pedigree was established in 2005 with the junior road race title at the Oceanias and in 2006, he was 10th at the junior world time trial championships. After a stint with the SA.com team based out of Varese in Italy, King raced with a French club team in 2009 but decided it was time to pursue other interests.
"I just wasn't enjoying it as much anymore and I just needed to step back for a while and reassess what I wanted to do," he explained. "From a young age it's all I've been doing. I'd achieved a lot in a short period and it wasn't something that I wanted to pursue professionally so I stood back for a while and went off and did a few other sports.
"Now I've come back I've just got that passion for racing again – you don't know where it can go."
Back to the NRS
The Tour of Toowoomba, the second event on the National Road Series calendar for 2012, is a quasi-home race for King, who was born in the rural Queensland hub. But it's a return that nearly didn't happen due to a slipped disc in his back which forced him off the bike for six weeks in the lead up.
"Our team line-up relied heavily on word from his physio that he could race," search2retain team manager Mark Isaacs told Cyclingnews. "I was always slightly confident speaking to Matt all the way through – he'd mentioned that he'd been training fairly solidly leading in to Toowoomba.
"He adds another element to our team and he's a really strong individual rider. We'll be giving it 100 per cent to make sure he's in the right spots when it comes to the finish."
King has raced in the NRS before, taking out Stage 2 of the Tour of Gippsland in 2007 but has no idea where he'll fit in the new era of racing. Coffee in Melbourne late last year with friends resulted in word getting out that he might be looking for a return and his subsequent recruitment by search2retain. But at the moment, long training rides are his only gauge of whether he's up to the task in a team which includes Neil van der Ploeg, Luke Fetch and Cameron Bayly.
"I'm just going to take it day by day," he said. "I'll know on the first day whether I'm severely underdone or whether I'm hanging in there. First race back in three years so obviously the race fitness is not going to be there at all. I'm just super-excited just to be doing a bit of racing again."
For a team that unashamedly relies on opportunistic racing to be competitive with the likes of Genesys which dominated the 2011 series, search2retain just might have found a linchpin, especially when it comes to some of the one day classics later in the season.
"I'm fairly confident with Matt," said Isaacs. "Matt's a racer. He's one of those guys that will turn up on the start line and give it 100 per cent."