By Paul Verkuylen
The newly crowned Australian champion Matthew Lloyd is about to embark on his second season in the ProTour ranks. After taking a surprise win in the nationals in a race he wasn't targeting, Lloyd is looking forward to bigger and better things in the upcoming season.
Going into the Australian championships as his first race of the season, Matthew Lloyd wasn't expecting to be pulling on the green and gold jersey on the podium at the end of the day. Instead, he was hoping to go into the early season with a more relaxed attitude, knowing there would be plenty of time for suffering later in the season. However, the plans for a low-key entry to racing were set aside when Lloyd bridged up to the winning move and then rode away to win the rights to wear the Australian colours for the next twelve months.
"It's a bit bogus having today's race and winning, because I didn't expect it. But when you're out there and you win it, I'm not going to pass that up," he said shortly after the race. Lloyd snuck away from a constantly changing lead group, and when the rest of the players realized he was gone, it was too late. To win without intending to was a nice bonus, but Lloyd will take a more tempered approach to racing in the coming months.
"I have been trying to be a bit more relaxed in the lead up to the season as opposed to in the past, because in the past I have been trying to be a professional, whereas now that I am [one], it's more a matter of targeting races or bigger races overseas," he explained of his build up to the event. "Having seen what it is like overseas, and getting a grasp, I understand how deep you have to go later on."
Lloyd is just beginning his second season with the Belgian ProTour team, Silence – Lotto, which he joined after graduating from the South Australia – AIS squad in 2006. He gained noticed after making the podium in the '06 'Baby' Giro d'Italia, and is hoping to work his way up to proving he is one of the biggest climbing talents Australia has ever produced.
With a 100% record so far in 2008, he has proven himself worthy of the team's investment, but Lloyd hasn't felt extraordinary pressure from his team to perform. Rather, he had ample opportunity to find his strengths in 2007. "[It was] really good, they have been very supportive. They were really flexible about the race schedule and tailoring it to not kill me. They also allowed me to experience a wide variety of racing, giving me a little sample of each type," he explained.
After enjoying a "few drinks" on Sunday night to celebrate his victory, Lloyd, a former ice hockey player, will refocus his energies on the first ProTour event of the season, the Tour Down Under, where Silence-Lotto will be expecting some similar performances of the rider who finished fourth overall last year, just 13 seconds behind winner Martin Elminger. "Being Australian and having a good result there last year, the team and a few other people want to see the same sort of thing," Lloyd continued. "Just being there and knowing the race and feeling stronger, having another year under the belt probably holds me in good stead to hopefully do something good there. But I am not really aiming for it to be a specific pinpoint of the season."
The recent upgrade in status to the ProTour for the Tour Down Under will see the best ever field assembled in Adelaide, but Lloyd believes that although there is more at stake, the position on the calendar doesn't lend itself to extraordinary performances, as the majority of riders will come from the Europeans winter with no racing since late October last year.
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