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Tour de France

Matt Lloyd back for more climbing games at the Tour

Former Giro mountains jersey winner is back from his blowout at Omega Pharma and aiming for a shot at polka dots in July

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SAINT VALLIER, France (VN) — Matt Lloyd was without a team this time last year after leaving Belgium’s Omega Pharma-Lotto for reasons unknown. He traveled around Europe and returned home to Melbourne before thinking of coming back. With a second chance on the WorldTour, the Australian aims for a shot at the polka dot jersey at the Tour de France next month.

Lloyd’s former team distributed a press release on April 14 last year that read: “Recent incidents during the first races disputed in 2011 by Matthew for our team made this collaboration impossible.”

Lloyd had won a stage and the mountains competition in the Giro d’Italia the year before, so the decision was surprising.

Monday morning in Seyssins, near Grenoble, he was his usual happy self. Lloyd was friendly with his time and always smiling while signing autographs and drinking coffee outside the Lampre-ISD bus.

“The main thing for me is to not talk about it. The best thing is the fact that moving and being in a new environment has happened,” Lloyd told VeloNews of the split with Omega Pharma, this year Lotto-Belisol.

“I have lost any relationship with the Omega Pharma guys, but it was just a situational change that anyone would have after six years in the same job,” said Lloyd. “In a simplistic way, that’s all I got to say about it. That’s all anyone wants to hear, everyone wants to see more action.”

His former sports director at Omega Pharma, Roberto Damiani, made the switch to Italy’s Lampre team and over the winter helped Lloyd find his way back. Damiani wanted to race Lloyd in the Giro d’Italia again, but his plans were sidelined by Lloyd’s crash and subsequent broken collarbone in Paris-Nice in March.

Lampre raced the Giro with Michele Scarponi and Damiano Cunego as its leaders. Meanwhile, Lloyd traveled to Livigno, Italy, north of his base in Varese, and trained at altitude. His friend Sam and parents, Barbara and Ross, joined him over the 20-day period. Lloyd motor-paced daily and trained in the high Alpine mountains.

“I haven’t done those sort of climbs in two years,” Lloyd explained.

“Those” climbs are important if he wants to perform in the Critérium du Dauphiné this week and the Tour de France next month.

“This week will be cool, it will give me a chance to get on the climbs that I’ll face in the Tour de France. If it’s good enough, I’ll come back here in a month and play the game.”

What is the game? Lloyd has his eyes on a stage win and possibly the polka-dot jersey, the Tour’s equivalent to the Giro’s green jersey. It would close the loop from his rise to his fall and put Lloyd back on top.

“The polka-dot jersey is the most important one in the world of climbing,” Lloyd said. “You need to aim for one of the stages and then go from there. You can’t go from the start and just say, ‘I’m going to win it.’ You have to be a bit more calculated.”