Australian Matthew Lloyd will return to the professional peloton in 2014 with the Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis team, the squad confirmed today. He will make his debut at the Cycling Australia National Road Championships this week. Lloyd was the 2008 national road race champion.
Lloyd will be an important addition to the team, team manager Danny Van Haute said. "He brings power to the team, giving us a general classification contender rather than just stage winners. If we can put a guy in the top 10 of a major stage race here, that's big for us and our sponsors," he told Cyclingnews.
After starting his second season with Lampre-Merida last year, Lloyd spent most of the 2013 season away from racing, trying to rehabilitate lingering back issues which stemmed from being hit by a car in 2010.
Before his accident, Lloyd's career was on an upward trajectory: he won a stage of the Giro d'Italia in 2010 and took home the overall mountains classification. But the 2010 crash, and a second injury in 2011 brought his time with the Omega Pharma-Lotto team to a close.
Lloyd bounced back with Lampre-ISD in 2012, but suffered another injury, this time a broken collarbone.
The 30-year-old told Cyclingnews in October that he was healthy and ready to return to the peloton, but said he was looking for the right situation. "I'm more concerned as to whether the situation would be beneficial not only for me but for them in the long run."
Van Haute said that Lloyd is wanting to get back into the WorldTour, as is former Garmin-Sharp rider Jacob Rathe, and he is happy to have both riders come and assist in the development of the younger riders, and to help them get back to the top level.
"They're both motivated to do well in the races in the States and they will be a good combination. Together with Fred Rodriguez, they can help teach our riders how to race better," Van Haute said today.
Lloyd will join the team for its March 1-10 training camp in Southern California, and will take part in his first race with the team at the Tour of the Gila at the beginning of May. Van Haute hopes the team will earn an invitation to the Tour of California, where Lloyd would be its GC rider, and then he would continue on to the Philly Classic and Tour de Beauce. After a return to Australia mid-season, he would then return for a training camp in Colorado and hopefully the Tour of Utah, USA Pro Challenge or Tour of Alberta.
"It all depends on the next few months when the races decide on the invitations," Van Haute said, but he is hopeful Lloyd's presence on the team will help Jelly Belly earn a selection.
In addition to Lloyd, the team also signed neo-pro Andrew Sjogren, a rider from southern California where Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis is headquartered.