Darren wins the Chester round of the Tour Series after a long solo effort.
Tragedy however struck the Lapthorne family when his sister Britt disappeared in 2008 whilst back packing in Croatia. It was a devastating blow to Darren and his family and he took time out from racing to get to grips with what was a major tragedy in his life. His sister was, and will always be, a major part of his life and in 2009, Darren returned to racing with British team Rapha Condor alongside friends and teammates Tom Southam and Kristian House who like Darren, spend the British winter in Australia.
Having met Darren quite a few times during the year, he does actually seem like the shy one in a team full of extroverts but says that coming back to racing was the best thing for him. “It is a good environment and whilst it has been difficult, the more I am getting back into the racing, the more I am enjoying it. I have had the full support of the team and it’s supporters as well as family and friends”
It is a very close knit team and he says everything with Rapha has been great in 2009. “I have had a couple of reasonable results but the most important races for us are coming up, Ireland and Britain. They are the two I want to do well in and the team want to do well in but I’m enjoying it so far.”
The season here in Britain and abroad has gone by very quickly for Darren and looking back, he says “I think one of the best highlights was Simon Richardson’s win in Ireland because that was the team’s first big win of the year. Getting my first win at Beauce (Canada) was great and also the Tour Series win in front of a good crowd. I think that series is just going to grow stronger and stronger and was really exciting”
Darren’s racing programme with Rapha Condor has been focused mainly on stage races and in the coming months there are certainly plenty of them for him to get his teeth into. Talking about the recent stage race in China, Darren says “it was what we expected. I started off well and then the altitude had its affect and the terrain was also extremely difficult.”
“It was more like a training camp for us. We looked at it after the first few days and decided we weren’t going to push ourselves over the limit because it could destroy us for the rest of the season. We had a good time there whilst still racing and making breaks every day. The results were not up there but they weren’t as important to us as they will be in the Tours of Ireland and Britain.”
“Hopefully we’ll feel the effects of having been at altitude in the next month or so”.
In Ireland and the stage races that follow, Darren and his Rapha Condor teammates will be racing against a lot of top professional riders from around Europe, something Darren experienced when he was racing for German team Sparkasse who had him racing in events right to Hor category status.
Darren has had a varied race programme from Premier Calendar events such as the Lincoln GP to stage races in Canada and China.
“I have raced 2.1’s before and HC races in Europe so it doesn’t bother me the calibre of riders coming to the Tours here in Ireland and Britain. If you get a win in them, it just means even more. It is definitely a step up from say a Premier Calendar race but at the same time we’ll have a competitive team. We may or may not win the overall but we’re certainly capable of getting stage results. If anything, we’re going to have the upper hand because we’re not going into it under the pressure the pros in the bigger teams are. They’ll be expected to get results and anything we get is a bonus.”
Asked how he finds his manager at Rapha Condor, John Herety who has many years experience with trade and national teams, Darren replied “He is definitely working with the riders on a personal level. He’s more of a good friend than a boss where as in the past I’ve looked at the directors as more of a boss. He’s great to work with and looks after the team well.”
After the tours of Ireland and Britain, Darren and the team will head down under for more stage races and for Darren, home. One of the key races for Darren will be the Sun Tour, a long standing classic that has been over shadowed on the international calendar by the Tour Down Under in recent years but certainly in Australian cycling folklore, is as big a classic as they come.
“I have done the Sun Tour three times before and that is a race probably more on a personal level that I’d like to do well in because it’s my home race. It’s good to be finishing the season there at home and having the opportunity of bringing the team over and showing the Aussie guys how good this team is.”
It is a shame that Darren, an Aussie, was unable to ride the British Road Race championships because it was a race that would have suited him like it did his friend and teammate Kristian House. But Darren will have his chance in the Australian summer to go for the Aussie title and in that with him will be Kristian and Tom Southam.
Asked has Kristian’s win got him thinking about the Australian title again, he says “For sure, I’m thinking about it as are most riders in Australia. It’s at a difficult time of the year (summer there) but it’s the same for all. It would be great to win that title again.”
“It is a really tough race and one of attrition. It’s over 16 laps of a hilly circuit and at the end there are only a few guys left and almost every year it’s won by a solo rider. It’s usually the strongest rider who wins that race and is for sure, a strong mans race.”
And what about the Road Worlds which takes place in his home state of Victoria in Australia in 2010? Is he looking to make the Aussie team for that? “It be a great dream but I have to be realistic because there are so many good Aussie riders out there and up coming riders too. I’ll certainly be up for it but unless something drastic happens like I am riding for a Pro Tour level team, or win the national championships or a major race between now and then, I am not sure whether I’ll be in the selector’s eye. There is always a chance and it would be fantastic!
Good luck to Darren and thanks for the chat!