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An interview with Daniel Lloyd, August 8, 2007
On the verge
DFL-Cyclingnews.com's Daniel Lloyd scored two close second place finishes in the past few weeks - both times missing a win by one heartbreaking second. Cyclingnews' Steve Thomas catches up with the Briton who seems to be teetering on the verge of nabbing his first big win.
Dan Lloyd had yet another close shave this week - this time he watched the back wheel of a flying David Millar ride away to victory in the British Road Race Championships. The duo had been away for a large chunk of the race and on the uphill sprint to the line, the flying Scotsman used his form from the recent Tour de France to power away to his first national title.
Just two weeks earlier, Lloyd had been on the other side of the globe battling for seconds in the Tour of Qinghai Lake deep in China while Millar had been fighting for stage wins in the Tour de France. Qinghai is a long way from the Tour in many aspects - both geographically and as a race, yet for an up and coming rider such as Lloyd, a win in Qinghai would have meant a lot. Instead, Lloyd found himself fighting for time bonuses against the experienced Italian veteran Gabriele Missaglia (Serramenti-Selle Italia) and coming up just one second short of the overall win.
The prominence of the Qinghai race increases every year, and it's now Asia's second highest ranked stage race (just behind the Tour de Langkawi). This year's race included a number of Pro Tour riders, and not to distant Tour contenders, such as Paco Mancebo (Relax-Gam), who finished in third spot overall - one spot behind Lloyd.
Qinghai is an important race for developing riders and had an impressive list of winners including the likes of Tom Danielson and Damiano Cunego. As China emerges as a major economic and sporting power, the quality of the field and the event increases, making it a serious target for the major pro and continental teams.
More importantly, the race was and still is a good showcase for riders wishing to attract the attention of the bigger teams - riders like Dan Lloyd. "Last year I finished fourth and took a stage, so I knew I could do well here," Lloyd explained. "Even before I joined the team I'd set Qinghai as one of my season's main objectives - along with the British Championships and the Tour of Britain."
The Tour of Qinghai Lake takes place at high altitude up on the Tibetan Plateau, and involves some serious climbing, although the climbs tend to be long and extremely steep. With a parcours like this, the racing becomes more of a war of attrition rather than an attacking, tactical affair - something which plays well into the hands of a strong, experienced team such as Serramenti. "I think the overall strength of the field was higher than last year," Lloyd said. "I was really surprised at how many riders got to the top of the climbs together on the 3rd and 4th stages, I really thought they would be more decisive.
"I tried attacking a few times, but there were just too many riders left to get away." After taking yellow jersey with time bonus seconds on stage five, the situation reversed the following day when Missaglia did the same, leaving just two seconds between himself and Lloyd. Lloyd took back one second on the final stage nine criterium in Xining, but just couldn't get the better of Missaglia. "I fought all the way, but it's really difficult to make up those seconds," lamented the young Brit after the race.
The experience is just one more step toward a top level career for the 26 year-old who has a varied background on two wheels. "I started by racing mountain bikes when I was 14, and rode the Espoir World Championships in Sierra Nevada back in 2000. I hadn't done a whole lot of road racing, just some local races and then the Junior Tour of Wales."
The lure of the road caught Lloyd's fancy, and it wasn't long before he dove in to racing on skinny tyres full time. "I went to race in France for a while, I did okay - had some top tens, but nothing spectacular." Even so it was good enough to earn him his first pro contract in 2003 with the British Italian based Enduraport team. He eventually moved to a two year stint with the Flanders team in the heart of the Belgian road scene. "It was a good learning experience with Flanders, the team manager knew everybody in Belgium so we got to ride some of the smaller classics."
After his time in Belgium, Lloyd decided to take a less conventional route in 2006 when he joined the Giant Asia team. "I'd ridden with David McCann at Enduraport, and he introduced me [to the team]. I knew it was going to be different, and the racing would be of a different standard, but knew nothing much else about it."
In recent years the globalisation of the sport has lead to many European racers heading to the east, and certainly not on one-way tickets, as Lloyd has shown. "I had some good results and it was a great experience. Initially the riders were based in Taiwan, but Dave McCann changed that and I followed suit. I still lived at home with my wife and child in Sunbury, south of London, but would fly over for periods of racing. This meant that I'd be home for 5-6 weeks at a time, purely training, but I'm a rider who can train well and prepare that way so it suited me."
After scoring solid rides in Qinghai and other Asian races and building up enough recognition to carve a future in the sport out for himself, he and his family went to Europe in 2007 after Lloyd was picked up by the British registered, Belgium-based DFL/cyclingnews.com team. "It's a great set up, very different to Flanders. Having Eric [Vanderaerden] and Nico [Mattan] behind you is a real help, and gives a great insight into the races and racing."
Things seem to be heading very much in the right direction for Lloyd despite the narrow misses in the two recent races. "I seem to improve every year, I can do most things; climb, time trial and even sprint. I just hope to keep improving and to get myself noticed by a Pro Tour team soon."
Given his recent results you'd expect that invite to the big league would be in the post sooner rather than later, although maybe it's been delayed along with his invite to join the British team. Despite his obvious talents, Lloyd has been passed over a few times by the National team. "I guess I've always been somewhat overlooked, maybe my face just doesn't fit. If they send six riders to the World's this year I could get a ride, if not..." Meanwhile, watch this space as Lloyd's third objective of the season is just a few weeks away - could the third time be the charm for the man with the golden shoes?