By Brecht Decaluwé in Valkenburg, The Netherlands
The Australian champion's jersey of Matthew Lloyd was spotted in a prominent position several times during the Amstel Gold Race. The Silence-Lotto rider was well placed close to the finale, but caught the attention of the cameras on two separate occasions when he ran into difficulty. The first time was with about 50 kilometres to go, when Lloyd was caught behind some indecision at a traffic island and had to come to a stand-still.
Despite the high pace at the front of the peloton, the 24 year-old climber still managed to come back and re-position himself near the front as the series of 31 short hills were being tackled. After the ascent of the Eyserbosweg, where the decisive attack usually is made, there was still no real selection done and Lloyd did all he could to hang on with the favourites.
However, things do not always go according to plan, and one false move dashed any hopes of a high finish for the man from Melbourne. "I was very unfortunate. I was feeling very good and we had Johan Vansummeren and Mario Aerts in the front as well. Just after the second last climb [Eyserbosweg] I was coming back down on the descent and unfortunately – as everybody was so desperate – I flew off the road," Lloyd described his misjudgment on a left hand corner.
"It's quite fitting for a race like this, because it is like being in a video game. Constantly you've got to watch out for corners, there are climbs and descents and it is just crazy," Lloyd described the experience he enjoyed in the Netherlands. "It is good training for the Giro [d'Italia] and this week was going to be tough anyway, so crashing is just part of it," the Australian champion explained that his crash wasn't ruining his mood too much.
To get ready for these races Lloyd didn't race in Belgium, but lined up in Spain. "I've been racing in the Vuelta a Pais Vasco. That was good and I had a few close calls in the finishes there," the Silence-Lotto rider recalled. Lloyd finished fifth in the fourth stage towards Vitoria-Gasteiz that was won in a group sprint by Kim Kirchen. "The form is coming but it's nothing you can rush in races like this. It takes a long time," the Australian champion explained.
The Ardennes Classics continue with the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège this week, and the former ice-hockey champion looked forward to those races. "Last year Flèche sort of panned out similarly compared to this race. A group gets away and the teams with the guys who want to win the race obviously chase it down. There's nothing crazy about the weather this week and hopefully it goes positively again. For the Belgian teams you got races like Liège-Bastogne-Liège at the end of the week, which is just massive. It runs exciting, and for me this week is just another step in the development. Obviously you want results, but you've got to keep the bigger picture in mind," Lloyd pointed out he is still a very young rider that has time enough to chase great results in the Spring Classics.