As you all know, Darren skyrocketed from a local racer who always showed immense talent to winning the Australian National Road Champion in 2007 with Drapac-Porsche. He then got a contract with German pro team Sparkasse in 2008 and then moved onto the Rapha Condor Sharp where he’s been living in the UK.

I had a chat with Darren this afternoon to find out more about what’s in store for him in 2011 and what’s brought him to this point. Thank you to all who submitted your questions for Darren.

CT: What was it like working with John Herety [Rapha-Condor-Sharp DS] this season while he was on his low-carb diet?

Lapthorne: (laughs) Yeah, I think the low carb diet, it worked for a little while and he definitely lost some weight but working with him was quite difficult at times when he had no energy and went hunger flat (laughs).

John was a really good guy to work with. He’s helped me through some really difficult times, personally, and at the same time given me some opportunities as well. I think he’s created a really exciting team in the UK and I was very pleased to be apart of that.

CT: How did Rapha help you develop in this stage of your cycling career?

Lapthorne: Well I think in general, the UK is a new avenue for bike riders to go through. Traditionally a lot of Australians will go into Belgium or France and I think now with the UK, the strength of the teams that are coming out with Sky, the general interest is there. I think its really becoming a positive place for Austraian bike riders to go to. I think Rapha being the strongest domestic team in the UK has given me a great opportunity and sort of allowed me to take the next step now.

CT: How did the Pegasus offer emerge? Were there any other offers on the table for the 2011 season?

Lapthorne: Once I heard about the team going ahead I got in touch with Pegasus. At that time I had another option which I was sort of pursuing as well but I thought being part of an Australian Pro Continental team was something special and I really wanted to be apart of that so I got in touch with the management and they expressed their interest. It wasn’t until a couple of months down the track that I got a positive response from them and it all took off from there.

CT: You mentioned another offer you were pursuing?

Lapthorne: Yeah, initally I was interested in going to a new Swiss Pro Continental team that was going to happen. However, one of the main sponsors for that team pulled out at the last minute when the bank guarantee and the pro continental application were due. Without that main sponsor the team couldn’t go ahead. So at that time, it was a difficult moment for me but I was really pleased to get the opportunity to go to Pegasus in the end.

CT: What will your role be at Pegasus?

Lapthorne: We haven’t reached that point yet. I’ve got a meeting with the directors in the next couple of days so I’ll find out then about my role and race program. But I know I’ll definitely be doing the Australian Championships, it will be first. That will be quite an important race for the team and we’ll have a strong presence there. So that’s guaranteed but I’ll find out more in the next couple of days.

CT: Where will you be basing yourself in 2011?

Lapthorne: I’m going to base myself in Girona, Spain, where the weather and the training are good.

CT: Will racing with Pegasus require a higher level of training and commitment than at Rapha?

Lapthorne: Definitely. I think natrually as a rider I’ll probably put a lot more pressure on myself and I think I’d like to step it up. I’ve been given a geat opportunity here and its a real chance to prove myself as a professonial cyclist. So yeah, I expect a lot more out of myself, having the race program and also the backing of a good team.

CT: Can you name an aspect of your cycling that needs development and work besides simply getting faster?

Lapthorne: Yeah, I think a consistent race program will be a big advantage for me. I find that the more racing I do, generally the stronger I get so it’ll be a really packed program. But I’d like to really aim at the stage races and I think time trialing is something that I have a lot more potential in. As well, just gaining more experience at a higher level will be a really positive thing.

CT: Is there one race at the highest level of cycling that you’re fixated on winning? Or at least aspiring to win?

Lapthorne: Until I’ve got my program I’m really not too sure. My dream race would probably be Liège–Bastogne–Liège. Yeah, as a one day race, something like that or any of the Ardennes Classics would be a dream race for me…that would be ultimate.

CT: So the Ardennes Classics are something that would suit your style of racing?

Lapthorne: I think as far as the classics go I think they would suit me the best compared to the cobbled flat races.

CT: Is there anything or anybody you credit with giving you the right form in the lead-up to your 2007 Australian National Championships win?

Lapthorne: My coach Stuart Morgan who works with the AIS. He really did push me hard and I did quite a large number of kilometers. He was very motivational and I think he really helped me a lot in winning that Nationals. He’s now once again my coach so I think he’ll be a great help in assisting me. He knows his stuff and he knows me really well.

CT: Did he just start coaching you again? Or have you been working with him ever since?

Lapthorne: After Drapac we sort of parted ways once I went to Europe, mainly because of the distance and because I had other assistance when I went to Germany and other coaches which were great. But I think Stuart knows me as a person really well and he knows what works for me so I’m really pleased to be working with him again.

CT: What was your head-space like in the week/s leading up to your Nationals win? Did you know you were in with a strong chance?

Lapthorne: I knew my form was really strong and I placed quite a bit of pressure on myself. I honestly thought, maybe top five position would be possible, so yeah, I had some expectations but I never really thought that I had the chance of winning it. But the way the race panned out, the position that I was in, it all worked out perfectly.

CT: So are you going to be able to wear the green and gold armbands on Pegasus kit?

Lapthorne: Yeah definitely.

CT: I remember your Rapha teammates telling me a story about a race where you were in a breakaway with Filippo Pozzato and he was saying to you “52? 52?” implying that you were pedaling so fluidly and smoothly that you must riding a 52T chainring.

Lapthorne: (laughs) Oh yeah, I remember that. To hear something like that from someone you respect [Pozzato] is always nice.

CT: I know you’re a pretty modest guy, but can you think of any defining moments in your cycling career that gave you some confidence that you can mix it up with these guys and have their respect?

Lapthorne: Definitely. I mean even with Rapha and Sparkasse, we still did some big races and to be competitive in those races its of course extremely difficult but you realise after awhile that the difference between the best and the rest is a couple of percent and there’s not a huge difference. It’s just their confidence in their own ability and I think a lot of that comes with time and the more races you win the greater confidence you gain in yourself. Yeah, so I think even racing against the biggest riders in the world you realise that a lot of it is really just the confidence in their own ability and the support that they have.

CT: What is your best time up the Kinglake climb?

Lapthorne: I don’t know because I’ve actually never timed myself up that climb. Purposely…because I ride it so often that I think if I ever time myself then every time I ride it I’d want to beat that time or make a personal best time. So for me that ride is just one that I enjoy doing and its not a test climb for me.

CT: What’s your test climb to see if you’re on form?

Lapthorne: Mount Alexander in Bendigo. The long side.

CT: What’s your time?

Lapthorne: 18 minutes dead.

CT: What’s your favorite training ride near Melbourne?

Lapthorne: Definitely the Donabuang climb.

CT: Time?

Lapthorne: Oh man…I don’t know my time.

CT: What’s your favorite ride in Bendigo?

Lapthorne: I’d say a loop called Fogaties (spelling?). Definitely Fogaties.

CT: Thanks for your time Darren and we all wish you all the best with Pegasus in 2011. Australia will be keenly watching.