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Matt Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is getting accustomed to wearing the green King of the Mountains jersey at the Giro d’Italia, but concedes that it will take smart riding for him to keep it all the way to Verona.
With two brutal mountain stages on tap Friday and Saturday, the Aussie clings to a narrow lead in the fight for the jersey which he’s held since winning stage 6 into Marina de Carrara.
(Related: Giro d’Italia KOM standings)
“It’s been incredible to keep the jersey this long but I know it will be complicated to win it,” Lloyd told VeloNews before Wednesday’s start. “This Giro has already been amazing to win a stage. To win the King of the Mountains jersey would be awesome. That’s certainly the goal.”
Lloyd leads with 29 points, with Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and Cadel Evans (BMC) tied for second with 25 points. Another half dozen or so riders are stacked up behind them still within shot of the jersey with so many mountain points still up for grabs.
With the breakaway gobbling up mountain points Wednesday over the Passo delle Palade at 106km, Lloyd rolled one day closer toward Verona and becoming the first Australian to win the King of the Mountains category in the Giro.
Standing in his way are two epic mountain stages, with lots of points in the offing. With the big favorites gunning for the GC, Lloyd knows that he has to play his cards just right if he hopes to carry home the jersey.
“It will be like a chess match,” he said. “I won’t be able to stay with the GC riders when they’re attacking for the pink jersey, so I might try to get into an early breakaway to gain some early points and give myself a margin.”
Lloyd started Wednesday’s start with three numbers taped to the top of his top tube: 34, 79 and 29. Those three riders – Ludovic Turpin, Xavier Tondo and Rubens Bertogliati – are the three non-GC riders that he wanted to keep his eye one. Turpin has 20 points, Tondo and Bertogliati with 16 each.
“Those are the three guys that I don’t want to let get away from me in a breakaway,” he said. “If they go in a move, I will follow them.”
One rider not on Lloyd’s list is Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone), winner of last year’s green jersey and lurking quietly in sixth with 17 points. Garzelli, however, hasn’t mentioned a word about chasing the climber’s jersey and is still enjoying the after-glow of his big win atop Plan de Corones.
The GC riders are fighting for the bigger prize of the maglia rosa and are content to let Lloyd play his luck with the climber’s jersey. How does Lloyd know that? They told him.
“I talked with the other guys, and they said they would not contest me for the points if I was there,” he said. “There are some big mountains coming up and they will be riding for the stage win, so I need to be smart to keep it.”
Lloyd is all but assured to get another trip for kisses with the podium girls in Thursday’s rolling stage. There are no rated climbs, so all he has to do is make it to the finish line in Brescia.
The real fight for green commences Friday.