Matt Lloyd was the only Australian finisher in the elite men's road race at the UCI Road Cycling World Championships on Sunday. Lloyd finished the 260km event in 55th position, 4'53" down on the winner and in the company of Paolo Bettini, Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Freire.
Australian teammates Trent Lowe, Allan Davis, Adam Hansen, Simon Gerrans, Will Walker and Matt Goss pulled out after lap 12 whilst in the second chasing bunch that was at 2'25" but with no chance of regaining the leaders. Michael Rogers and Robbie McEwen called it a day soon after, leaving Lloyd to fly the flag for Australia.
"It was pretty much on from the start and on a course where there's around 4,000m of climbing, by the end of the day everyone's legs were pretty much nailed," said an exhausted Lloyd after the race. "Obviously with Robbie McEwen and his fantastic history with racing and Allan Davis who has been doing reasonably well recently we couldn't deny the possibility of a sprint finish so in light of that we tried to work with those guys and get them to the finish.
"But as you saw at the finish when it was really 'game on' those guys couldn't hold on and with Mick (Rogers) trying his best with two laps to go - he's such a quality rider - so you can see how deep you have to go in the World Championships - I was fortunate enough to just hang on longer than anyone else."
Race Manager Neil Stephens said the Italians were just too strong today.
"We went in with a few different options but we were not sure how Michael Rogers would recover from time trial (Thursday) and we had a couple of quick riders in Davis and McEwen but as it was the circuit was quite tough and the Italians really took it to everybody," Stephens said. "They ramped the speed up right from the start and it proved a little bit too hard for our fast boys.
"Luckily we had 'Lloydy' who was there with the best of them - Bettini and Freire and yes he was our best finisher."
Lloyd had worked early in the race for his teammates which in the final two laps took its toll.
"I personally felt like I was in a body bag and you can try and do your best to rejoin the groups in front but after six hours it tends to become not so much wanting to do something but that the ability tends to disappear," he said. "It's something I hope to improve on over the next few years."
Australia ended their participation in the UCI road Cycling World Championships with one bronze medal claimed by 20 year-old Cameron Meyer, in the U23 men's time trial on day one of competition.
Italy topped the medal table with two gold and two silver ahead of Germany who claimed one gold, one silver and three bronze medals. Australia finished in equal ninth place of the ten countries that collected medals during the six days of the competition.