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Lloyd says his health, not a ProTeam contract, is his 2014 priority

The Australian and former Giro d'Italia stage winner has been held back by health problems

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MILAN (VN) — Australian Matthew Lloyd dropped out of the professional ranks after stints with Lotto and Lampre to sign with Jelly Belly-Maxxis last week, a third division squad. However, he is happy with the decision and glad to be in good health.

“I don’t worry about it, about not being in the pro level,” he told VeloNews from Melbourne. “I’ve been through the steps, I’ve been successful but if I don’t have the results then I don’t have guarantees in a top-level team. It’s a good lesson to the younger guys. You can’t just join a team based on your past successes.”

Lloyd’s successes include top 20s in the Ardennes Classics, and a stage win and the mountains classification in the 2010 Giro d’Italia. Several setbacks followed.

Lotto contract

A car hit Lloyd while he was training in December 2010. He broke his shoulder in the accident, but even worse was the fact he re-aggravated an injury to his spine suffered in a crash at the Amstel Gold Race a year prior. Soon after, early into the 2011 season, team Lotto and Lloyd annulled their contract.

The team said, “Recent incidents during the first races disputed in 2011 by Matthew for our team made this collaboration impossible.”

Lloyd read the comments on the Internet at the time. Rumors said he was drunk at Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), his last race for Lotto.

“I did nothing wrong. I’ve heard the different stories,” he said. “I find it funny to read those on the Internet. On both sides, though, no one did anything stupid.

“The broken shoulder was almost too close to the 2011 season to allow me to recover quickly. They had different people they had to deal with — organizations can be challenges. They had to deal with 30 guys. The only solution at that point was to let it loose. That’s what happened. I didn’t fall out with one person. I remain friendly with everyone at Lotto.”

Health an issue

Lampre contracted Lloyd but could not help his back. He raced all of the 2012 season but only part of 2013, dropping out of the Volta a Catalunya in March.

“I went back to Australia, the main issue was health,” Lloyd said. “I broke my elbow in the 2012 Tour de France and I still had trouble from my spine. Getting fit day in and day out was troubling. I didn’t want to damage my system.”

Lloyd got married, healed, and began training again. He said he felt “twice as strong” but it was too late to return to Europe and race with Lampre, and too late to secure a contract in the first or second division.

“It takes time to heal and recover,” he added. “Guys don’t often enough give it that needed time.”

U.S. schedule with Jelly Belly

Lloyd lived in San Diego with his family as a boy. He said he will base himself part-time in California while racing with Jelly Belly. The team announced it signed Lloyd last week. He will meet his new teammates at a camp in early April.

If it goes well, Lloyd and Jelly Belly should race the Amgen Tour of California and the USA Pro Challenge. After a year with Jelly Belly, Lloyd will weigh his options.

“After many years at the top level, I’d like to return to perform at that level again,” said Lloyd, who recorded a DNF at the Australian national road championships on Sunday. “I’m not going to worry about it before it exists, though. I’d be happy to do it if I had not been injured. Now, I’ll target the races the best I can with Jelly Belly. If it works, I’ll continue, otherwise I’ll do something else. I’m only 30.”

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