Dan Lloyd Interview: barring a last-minute contract, it’s the end of the road
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Dan Lloyd Interview: barring a last-minute contract, it’s the end of the road

by Ed Hood at 8:09 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
 
Briton talks about the possibility that his career is over

Dan lloydThe big man from Christchurch in the south of England has conceded that with the training camps for next year already started, it’s unlikely he’ll get the contract that his abilities deserve. If so, it’s a shame, particularly as a move down from the WorldTour doesn’t appeal to a rider who fought long and hard to reach the highest echelons of the sport.

Whilst the bolt hasn’t been padlocked yet, it looks like the WorldTour door is shut for the 31 year-old Daniel Lloyd. If there’s no eleventh hour deal with a decent team, it could be the end of his career.

He’d love to stay in the sport, but equally he’s not a rider who is prepared to drop down to Continental level.

As was the case with Roger Hammond, Lloyd found out late that the Garmin-Cervélo team wasn’t keeping him on. He said that repeated questions to Jonathan Vaughters about his future were met by responses that he’d know in a fortnight, but each time those two weeks came and went.

He was finally told that his contract wasn’t being renewed after the Giro di Lombardia, on October 15th. Knowing then that he had to find something else meant that things had tightened up considerably, with very few contracts being left.

[Note: Vaughters has told VeloNation that while the final decision wasn't made until October, that he had told Lloyd before that point that a contract was uncertain, and offered him a job as a directeur sportif.]

The late news complicated things for him, and also did the same for Hammond. “I was talking to Roger – who was also let go by Garmin – and he was telling me that the teams he was approaching were amazed that he was free, they assumed he would continue with Garmin,” he said.

“If they’d known earlier, then there was a chance they’d have a place for him.”

It’s already December and a new year is a fortnight away. Unless there’s a last minute deal, it looks like his career could be over. He said it’s a very peculiar realisation. “For ten years I’ve had goals in cycling and all my focus has been there – it’s strange having to think about what comes next,” he said.

“It’s all very well thinking; ‘well, it’s raining and I don’t have to do five hours’ but I’ve no doubt when I’m watching racing on TV, I’ll really miss it. And there’s that amazing feeling when you’re on top of your form and your legs are turning easily – I’ll miss that too.”

Like so many riders in the last decade, Lloyd came to the road from mountain biking, initially riding skinny tyres as part of his training regime for his off road racing.

In 2003 he signed with low budget British team Endurasport.com under the stewardship of respected ex-continental pro Harry Lodge.

The following two years saw him on the hard roads of Belgium with the late Frans Assez’s Flanders team.

Assez’s many contacts within the sport meant that his low budget outfits always enjoyed a solid programme; and Lloyd rode events like the Three days of De Panne against the very highest level of opposition .

In 2006 he signed with Giant Asia and took two good wins; stages in the Tour of Siam and in the extremely tough, high altitude Tour of the Qinghai Lake.

For 2007 he was back in Europe with DFL, taking second to David Millar in the British elite road race championship but returning to China for Qinghai and missing the overall win by a single second to Italian Gabrielle Missaglia.

The An Post Sean Kelly team was home for 2008 and he grabbed the biggest win of his career with the overall in the Vuelta Extremadura. He also placed fourth in the British championship. Performances such as that earned him the attention of the fledgling Cervelo Test Team, who signed Lloyd on a two year deal.

He hit the ground running in 2009 with fourth in the Tour of Qatar, ninth in the Strada Bianche, rode his first Grand Tour – the Giro – and was narrowly denied the British elite road championship by Rapha’s wily Kristian House.

The following season saw Lloyd ride the Giro, Dauphine and Tour de France, which even for a ‘big strong boy’ many people viewed as too much of a workload.

He was one of the lucky ones when Cervelo merged with Garmin at the end of 2010 but an injury-blighted 2011 saw a GC top ten in the Tour of Britain as his best ride.

An autumn of turmoil which has seen the end of HTC and Geox and the merger of Radio Shack with Leopard means that many riders find themselves in Lloyd’s position: music still within them but no orchestra to play with.

VeloNation: How did Garmin notify you that your contract wasn’t being renewed, Dan?

Dan Lloyd: They didn’t, really.

I rang Jonathan Vaughters a few times towards the end of the season and it was the usual cycling answer; ‘there will be a decision in two weeks’ – but it never came.

It’s like that in the sport, it’s hard to get a definite answer; I think that in a normal business you would have to treat your staff differently.

I finally spoke to him on the phone when he was on his way home after Lombardy and he told me then.

VN: Did things change for you when Cervélo merged with Garmin?

DL: Well, I was disappointed that Cervélo ended, even though I understand they had sound reasons to do so. They couldn't afford to finance it due to a sudden large expense elsewhere, so it was better to stop it then rather than try to continue and have to stop mid-year.

Still, it was a pity it didn't continue. At the beginning we had something new, fresh, exciting. In fact, I really enjoyed my time with the team.

Because it was an entirely new project, there were no cliques and despite it being big budget with a lot of star riders it was a good combination which worked well together, and we had good results from the start.

It wasn’t really a merger, Garmin took us on – it was their team, history and outlook.

VN: Do you have an agent?

DL: I had someone trying to help me but with the end of Geox there are a lot of Spanish guys on the market – and I daresay it’ll be the same in Italy and elsewhere.

VN: Didn’t your reputation as a ‘workhorse’ help?

DL: I have worth to a team but I don’t have points – which a team needs to cement their place in the Pro Tour.

The points system is pretty complicated and not many people understand it.

Philippe Gilbert has spoken out against it; he says that he wants his team 100% committed, not 90% with the other 10% to keep an open for their own opportunities to grab points for themselves.

It’s ironic because it’s a sport which relies so much on team work; Mark Cavendish is always the first to say that he couldn’t do what he does without his team’s efforts for him.

I was actually close to getting a ride in the Worlds at Copenhagen – had I done so then I think it would have made a difference to my stock, being part of the team which won the Worlds.

VN: There was talk of you going to FDJ?

DL: Yes, David Millar spoke to Marc Madiot for me – but at the end of the day it was a ‘no.’

VN: Did you consider Endura? They’ve been busy recruiting…

DL: I’ve spoken to Brian Smith a few times but neither of us really mentioned my joining the team.

And besides, I don’t want to go down the divisions – I wanted to stay in the Pro Tour.

I considered the US, along the lines of Charly Wegelius with United Healthcare where his programme was largely European with occasional trips to the US – it wouldn’t be feasible for me to relocate to the US with a wife, two kids and a dog – but that door was shut too.

Dan LloydVN: You must feel frustrated that lesser riders than you are still on the Pro Tour?

DL: I wouldn’t say there were ‘lesser riders’ – everyone that’s on the Pro Tour deserves to be there, so I haven’t looked at it from that perspective.

But for ten years I’ve had goals in cycling and all my focus has been there – it’s strange having to think about what comes next.

It’s all very well thinking; ‘well, it’s raining and I don’t have to do five hours’ but I’ve no doubt when I’m watching racing on TV, I’ll really miss it.

And there’s that amazing feeling when you’re on top of your form and your legs are turning easily – I’ll miss that.

VN: Do you have any unfinished business in the sport?

DL: The Olympics were certainly in my mind – I was absolutely flying in July, form which I carried through to the Tour of Britain and just missed a Worlds spot.

It’s only five man teams at the Olympics but if you’re in good shape and someone has injury or illness and drops out . . .

Representing your country is always a proud moment – and it would have liked to be on a team which won a Grand Tour or a Monument. And I always wanted to win the Nationals; I was second twice – in 2007 and 2009, with fourth in 2008.

VN: What will you miss most about racing at that level?

DL: The drive - your whole life is planned and you’re focussed on just one thing.

It’s amazing when the work pays off and you’re flying – that’s a nice feeling.

VN: What won’t you miss?

DL: Going out in all weathers – training and racing in the rain is pretty grim.

And I won’t miss road rash.

VN: If you had your career over, what would you do differently?

DL: Nothing, really – my progress was steady, I went up the scale in terms of teams and races. I couldn’t face the prospect of going back down.

But I do wish that I’d spent more time early in 2011 making contacts with others so as I could have secured a ride for 2012.

VN: What would you change about the Pro Tour and/or UCI?

DL: The transfer system – there should be a data base with all the riders’ status on it so everyone knows what’s happening.

I was talking to Roger Hammond – who was also let go by Garmin – and he was telling me that the teams he was approaching were amazed that he was free, they assumed he would continue with Garmin.

If they’d known earlier then there was a chance they’d have a place for him.

And the financial structure in cycling is unlike other major sports, if you take football – they share in the TV revenues, have gate money and get a large share of the replica kit profits.

Sponsorship for them is an additional boost, not the sole source of cash for the team, like it is in cycling.

If the sponsor pulls out then the team is finished, it needs to be more stable, especially in a financial climate like today when companies are reluctant to part with large sums of cash.

Dan LlloydVN: What’s your take on Mondialisation?

DL: It’s a difficult question, in some ways it’s good because it opens the sport up to new sponsors in markets which don’t have the same financial problems that Europe and the US do.

But there’s a lot of history in cycling and the Tour of Beijing is never going to have the same prestige or legend which the historic races and climbs enjoy.

And whilst it’s maybe OK for Garmin – because their products are sold worldwide – it’s not hard to see why the likes of Euskaltel and Movistar wouldn’t enthuse about having to ride in Beijing.

Teams like that want to be Pro Tour but it’s so they can ride the Tour and Vuelta – that’s where their markets are.

VN: Coaching is a road we’ve heard you may be going down?

DL: Nothing is formalised yet but I have been talking to Dan Fleeman and Stephen Gallagher of Forme Coaching - but we still have to sort out the finer points. I actually used to coach Dan back in our DFL and An Post days.

It’s something I’ve always focussed on; trying to get the best out of myself – I’ve long been a devotee of training on power and have made great improvements in my output. It would be nice to pass that knowledge on - and I’m a good example myself, I don’t think I have a lot of natural talent, but I’ve worked hard and improved every year of my career.

VN: And is it the same sport as you came into back in 2003?

DL: It’s not changed that much in my time, but when you talk to guys like Jez Hunt, it has changed a lot over the last 15 years or so.

Back then guys like Indurain would be the ‘patron’ and for the first 50/60 kilometres of the ‘training races’ they’d decide that they should have a nice warm up and everyone would ride along chatting.

Then the patron would stop, take off his leg and arm warmers and woolly hat and say; ‘ok, you can race now.’

Now, there’s not a race which doesn’t have a breakaway go from kilometre zero – and with the Tour Down Under enjoying the same points as Paris-Nice, its full gas from the first day of the season.

 

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