Lapthorne cancels retirement due to contract offer from Drapac Professional cycling team
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lapthorne cancels retirement due to contract offer from Drapac Professional cycling team

by Conal Andrews at 10:30 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Had quit cycling after Pegasus Sports team fell apart
Darren LapthorneHaving retired last month, disillusioned after the collapse of the Pegasus Sports team, former Australian champion Darren Lapthorne has secured a contract and is returning to racing.

Lapthorne is going back to the Drapac Professional cycling team, with whom he competed in 2006 and 2007, and with whom he won his national title. “I’ve ridden with them before and they were probably my best years on the bike so I thought it’d be a good place to go back to,” he told SBS’s Cycling Central.

He had competed for the past two seasons with the Rapha Contor team but said that he felt it was time to try something new. He jumped at an offer to compete with the new Pegasus Sports team, but it quickly ran into difficulties before the season even started. An inability to sign enough big-name riders meant that it missed out on the ranking points needed to secure the UCI ProTeam licence it was aiming for.

Equally significantly, the Alberto Contador doping case caused planned sponsor Red Bull to walk away from the deal. Further difficulties in raising the necessary budget cost the team its plan B, a Pro Continental licence, and the same issue meant that it missed out on the third option, a Continental licence.

Lapthorne’s morale was low and he walked away from the sport, starting work in a job at a car dealership in Bendigo. However Michael Drapac, owner of the Drapac Professional cycling team, convinced him that it was too soon to hang up his wheels and he was swayed. “It didn’t take long though I sort of got the buzz back,” Lapthorne explained. “It’s not just about riding the bike, it’s the mateship you’ve got with your competitors and teammates and I really missed that.”

He will compete in the Geelong Cycling GP on Saturday, and have an Australian-based programme this season. While it might take him some time to get full race fitness – especially as he plans to keep working as well – he will target Herald Sun Tour as a big goal.

“I’m happy building my fitness up nice and easy, doing the opens and the national series, then hopefully towards the second half of the season I’ll really build-up and focus on the Sun Tour.”

Longer-term, he hopes to return to racing in Europe. He’s had a difficult run of things, with the death of his sister Britt in September 2008 turning his life upside down and making 2009 a tough season. Things didn’t get much better in 2010, will illnesses and accidents testing his resolve. The Pegasus Sports fiasco seemed like a final straw, but fortunately the talented 27 year old will give the sport another shot.

As a past national champion and stage winner in the Tour de Beauce, it’s clear he has talent; hopefully now he will get the luck he deserves, and see how far he can go in the sport.

He set out a good target last November, telling the Sydney Morning Herald that he wanted to top a podium at a big event. “I would love to win a major race, especially for the people who have supported me - my family and friends. That's the dream,” he said.

“I also ride because I would like to compete in a Grand Tour such as the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France. To get a result in a stage, that's my ultimate dream. I would love to do that in memory of my sister and for those who supported me.”

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