Two months ago, following his crash at Paris-Nice, Matthew Lloyd was adamant that his plan to return to the Giro d'Italia was on track. The Lampre-ISD Australian had fallen coming out of a blind corner on Stage 7, with his right shoulder taking the brunt of the impact resulting in a broken collarbone.
He went on to race the Tour of Romandie, finishing 125th overall but the 28-year-old had to admit to himself that he was far from being the in physical condition required to perhaps mount a challenge for the maglia verde as he did successfully in 2010.
"I definitely wasn't expecting to be there [at the Giro d'Italia], mainly because it would have been stupid," he told Cyclingnews having ridden the Swiss race uncomfortably. "I wouldn't want to be in the position, not only for myself but for the team having the objective of winning the race.
"Being there, as a token of having had success in the Giro in the past would have been nice but on the other hand, you don't want to be in the stupid position of being potentially dropped every day and not enjoying the race. Additionally for the fact that you're not even helping the team."
This was the same Matthew Lloyd who just over a year ago found himself without a team having not been completely honest about his recovery from a string of injuries. Cyclingnews dare not suggest that this was more mature Lloyd on the end of the phone line; instead Lloyd spoke up for himself.
"I was speaking to some of the management from our team recently and one of the first things that was noticed was that there was an element of maturity, where it wasn't in the past," he admitted. "This time I was pretty open and honest enough to say, 'look, in this situation with the ribs or shoulders or spine, you have to take the time to make sure that it's perfect.' I think that just comes through a certain amount of maturity that I may not have had in the past. It's normal that people think they're invincible when they're 27 and 28 and then you finally find out through whatever reason that it's not that user-friendly when you try and jump back into the game. It's detrimental."
The new objective
Lloyd is now firmly focussed on the Critérium du Dauphiné, which starts on June 3. He's since been continuing his recovery and enjoying the warm early afternoons training on the roads around his Italian base, avoiding the Giro d'Italia on television where his teammates are gunning to put Michele Scarponi on top of the podium in Milan.
"The Australian Institute of Sport and my team have been helpful, I've had a whole heap of people supporting the cause all at once and it's made the recovery five-six times as quick and I haven't had to rush anything," Lloyd said.
He does admit that he's been in touch with his teammates and believes that Lampre-ISD is in good position, given it won't be until the final week until a solid final selection emerges.
"I think the field will just explode... it will be fun to watch," although he probably won't.
In the coming days, Lloyd will join his family and close friend Sam who occasionally acts as a soigneur, in Livigno on the edge of the Swiss-Italian border as part of his build-up towards June and then hopefully July at the Tour de France which he last raced in 2010.
This year's Dauphine is a tough one, featuring a climb up the Grand Colombier which will also feature in the Tour de France, but Lloyd says as a warm-up "it's perfect," because the week-long race will give him an honest appraisal of where he's at.
"With the Dauphine, as a lot of people have already noticed, it's probably one of the most violent parcours I've ever seen," he told Cyclingnews. "I don't know if someone pissed off the race management or they want to test drive some new cars on mountain roads or whatever but I looked at the profile and I thought, if I were a sprinter, I'd definitely be doing the Tour de Suisse.
"Even as a climber, there's one day which is relatively flat and it's a prologue," he laughed. "The rest of the seven days it's a case of let's just jam it up the biggest mountain we can climb just to see who's in good shape before the tour."
While his start at the Tour de France is not dependent on his performance at the Dauphine, he believes that once he hits his stride, the rest should follow.
"It was a smart decision [not to race the Giro] in the end and I think the team's been quite intelligent about that and knows that there's another big race coming up relatively soon," Lloyd explained. "I'll probably have a bit more liberty in the Tour de France, solely because it's not necessarily a case of our team having to ride on the front to win the race."
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