Kiama cyclist Aaron Donnelly believes he is tracking towards career-best form again after clinching second overall in the Herald Sun Tour at the weekend.
Donnelly finished the gruelling four-day event 37 seconds behind Victorian Calvin Watson, taking out the coveted sprint classification in the process.
After a tumultuous 2012, in which he was forced to cut short a dream six-month stint racing in Europe because of injury, Donnelly would have been hugely reassured by his breakthrough result in Victoria.
"I finished seventh in the prologue and then broke away with two others in the first stage of the race, getting a couple of minutes on some of the pro riders," Donnelly said.
"Winning that stage was probably the biggest win of my career.
"To come second overall was a bit of a bonus really. It wasn't a race that I was focusing on at all. It just kind of panned out that I put myself in a good position.
"I can't complain at all to come second behind Calvin.
"It was a massive shock and I didn't really expect it, but it's given me a lot of confidence for the future and definitely put me back on track to where I want to go."
Donnelly held the yellow leader's jersey for two days of the Herald Sun tour, carrying a 14-second lead into the final stage.
The 21-year-old went into day four in a three-way battle for overall victory, along with 20-year-old Watson and New Zealander Josh Atkins, who finished third.
"I had a 14-second lead over Calvin and 17 seconds over Josh," he said.
"But I didn't quite have the legs to stick with Calvin up the last climb and he beat me by about 30 seconds."
Donnelly will now turn his attention to the Australian national championships in Ballarat, which get under way tomorrow.
With a strong result there, the budding international racer hopes he can rejoin the European circuit and make amends for last year's disappointment.
"The time trials at the nationals start on Wednesday, which is the race I've been aiming for," he said.
"I'm focusing on getting some more results and hopefully some bigger and better things can come for me in the future.
"Having forced time away from the sport like I have always makes you come back stronger and hungrier. The dream's still to get a ride in Europe, and this result's definitely a big step in that direction."