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Jayco Herald Sun Tour - 2.1
Australia, October 8-14, 2006
Australia's (next) King of the Mountains?
Matthew Lloyd recovered from an early fall in last week's Herald Sun Tour to win the King of the Mountains jersey. Cyclingnews' Greg Johnson caught up with Lloyd after the race to discuss the much bigger mountains that lay ahead of the 23-year-old next year in the ProTour, where he will team up with Australia's reigning king-of-the-climbers, Cadel Evans, at Belgian super-squad Davitamon-Lotto.
A fall in the opening road stage of last week's Herald Sun Tour quickly put Matthew Lloyd out of outright contention for the event victory, but that didn't stop the 23-year-old from leaving his mark on the race.
Despite finishing 64th in prologue then 72nd on the opening road stage following the fall, Lloyd bounced back to post pace-setting results over the stages that ensued. "It was disappointing at the start of the tour - I obviously came in with bigger ambitions," he explained. "To fall over and crash is obviously disappointing but when it does happen, and it happens a lot in cycling, you've got to refocus your goals."
With the leaders out of reach and a point still to prove, the Southaustralia.com - AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) rider did exactly that and powered through to second on the third stage. "Luckily, in this tour there was a few opportunities to get points down the road with the King of the Mountains jersey and I thought that would be a very good chance to do so," he added.
After claiming the King of the Mountains jersey with his second place, a 30th placing on stage four dragged him up to 36th on General Classification. Then, on stage five, Lloyd nearly halved his GC deficit by claiming a dominant one-and-a-half-minute stage victory over Drapac Porsche's Mitchell Docker, putting him into 19th outright. "On the second road stage I took the first set of points," explains Lloyd. "I got the jersey and managed to hold onto it throughout the tour and took a stage win with that as well - so I was rapt by the end of it."
Despite the disappointment of not being a key player in one of the best Herald Sun Tour battles to date, Lloyd was still pleased with the outcome of the event: "Definitely. It's always good to look at a tour optimistically, especially when it's the last race of the year."
With the Herald Sun Tour marking the last race on his 2006 calendar, Lloyd is again refocusing - this time on his move to the big league. "I'm riding with Davitamon-Lotto in the ProTour which is basically from the first of January next year - it's a two year contract, so obviously it's going to be another notch to step up to," he explains. "I'm really looking forward to it."
Lloyd believes despite the magnitude of the step that it will be a smooth transition due to the contingent of Australians now riding on the world scene. "For sure, I mean you've got great guys like Robbie McEwen and those sorts of guys are there," he adds. "Also I'll be living close to Cadel Evans who's been unbelievably helpful this year and the team is really accepting of Australian riders obviously, so it's going to be good."
With the intensity of competition in the ProTour, Lloyd is planning on 2007 being a development year for his second season with a pro team. "I think it's the type of sport you have to build into," he explains. "I don't know, hopefully it will be a good two years but you need to gradually work into it."
Lloyd hopes the move will enable him to make his a major stage race debut as soon as next season but admits retraining his body will be a focus of the season.
"I'll have to look at the race schedule when it comes out but I think potentially there is a chance of doing one of the Grand Tours and I'd like to do that - just to experience it," said Lloyd. "I think the rest of the racing is going to be pretty hard-core anyway, so I'll be adapting the body to the level it needs to be at."