Aaron Donnelly returned from overseas mid-year battered and bruised, mentally as much as physically.
Just when everything promised so much for the 21-year-old Kiama cyclist it all came tumbling down.
In his third year riding for Team Jayco-AIS (Australian Institute of Sport), he was living in Italy with the mouth-watering prospect of racing throughout Europe for six months of the year with the team, getting a taste of the professional cycling scene and lifestyle, being nurtured and developed by the AIS to help these elite young riders step up to that level of the sport.
"Things were looking good for me this year but unfortunately my stint in Europe was cut short having an accident down some stairs at our base in Italy, breaking a bone and tearing some ligaments in my wrist, which required an operation and total of 10 weeks completely off the road to let it fully recover," Donnelly said yesterday.
Instead of competing in the northern summer, a frustrated Donnelly headed home in late April to recover, recuperate and get back into the arduous grind of more preparation and training.
"Having forced time off the bike is always tough, especially when you see some of the results my teammates were picking up in Europe, but it makes you want it more and by putting the hard work in you can come back even stronger," he said.
"A huge thank you to all of my family and friends who have helped me through the tough times. Without their support I definitely wouldn't be where I am now."
Through a combination of that loyal support and his own commitment and character, Donnelly is coming back stronger than ever, with some encouraging recent results in the National Road Series races.
In the Tour of the Murray (eight days, 14 stages), he was third overall, first in the young rider classification, a third, fourth and eighth in three of the stages and was awarded the most aggressive rider jersey.
He followed this with the Goulburn to Sydney One Day Classic, where he was in the breakaway for 130 kilometres of the 170 kilometres, winning both sprint primes on the road and winning the sprint king jersey.
Then came the Cootamundra Annual Handicap race. Riding off scratch, Donnelly was the winner and recorded the fastest time.
Next Tuesday he will start in the six-day Tour of Tasmania, followed by two one-day classics. First up is the Melbourne to Warrnambool in Victoria midway through next month, followed by the Grafton to Inverell a week later.