Lloyd uses Paris-Nice in build-up to Giro d'Italia

Matthew Lloyd (Lampre-ISD) doesn't have a vibrant recollection of the last time he rode Paris-Nice. Incidentally, it was in 2009 when he was racing for Silence-Lotto.

"I've only done it once before I think," he told Cyclingnews on the eve of this year's race. "I'm not really sure if it's a common theme with the race but from what I can remember it was really, really cold.

"I wasn't exactly in the best condition and it wasn't a really friendly encounter. But nonetheless, coming into it this time because the other one was so bad, I've erased it from my memory."

Lloyd then went on to tell Cyclingnews that: "This one's like opening a new book," but the bottom line for the climber is that he's aiming to use the eight-stage race as a stepping stone to his return to the Giro d'Italia in May. Stages 5 (Onet-le-Chateau - Mende 178km) and 7 (Sisteron - Nice 220km) should be to Lloyd's liking despite the fact that there is a question mark as to whether they're tough enough. What Lloyd likes about this edition of Paris-Nice is the unknown.

"There are plenty of opportunities to physically violate yourself and break a sweat," he told Cyclingnews. "It's going to be interesting. It's a course that encompasses a range of challenges without having any epic mountain passes. From a racing aspect that means that's it's always going to be antagonistic because guys don't have to really plan ahead too much to try and limit their losses over huge mountains. It could be a very explosive race."

The benefit in that from Lloyd is that the race will act as a litmus test for how much work the 28-year-old will need to do over the next month given his program will not feature the classics, something he doesn't feel he benefits from.

Lloyd is coming into Paris-Nice having had no racing since January where he took silver in the Australian National Road Championship behind Simon Gerrans, and then did the Tour Down Under. Greeted back in Italy by the cold-snap which hit the European continent, the Lampre-ISD team training camp at Mt. Etna was extended from 10 days to 15. It was a chance for Lloyd to further develop the relationship with his new teammates and also take in the surrounding environment.

"The area that we were able to train in was quite amazing – the flora and the fauna was always nice to check out," he said. "It's kind of strange when you're when you're staying half on top of an active volcano. The topography was quite interesting. It was a good experience."

Cyclingnews had not taken Lloyd for a geology buff but was quickly countered.

"From time to time I think every cyclist has to take in where they're situated," Lloyd explained. "If they don't they're missing out on a whole lot. Sicily is always throwing different things around, there were packs of stray dogs roaming the streets and we had to be careful of them."

Giro back on the agenda

With his well-publicised fall-out with Omega Pharma-Lotto in mid-April of last year, Lloyd was unable to defend his green jersey from the 2010 Giro d'Italia. Lloyd now faces a delicate balancing act between wanting to return to the Italian grand tour, and wanting to return to the Italian grand tour at a level that would be detrimental to any ambitions he may have.

"Generally when you do have an objective like that if you take it too seriously it tends to be overwhelming for anyone, so I'm pretty relaxed about it," he explained. "There's no festering, deep-seeded thing in the back of my mind wanting to smash everything to pieces mainly because I know that it's relatively useless when it comes to riding your bike. I prefer to exploit the fact the race has a lot of climbs."


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