But no; ‘I could do with another week in the Pyrenees!’ he told us, on the rest day.
PEZ: is it too tough to ride the Giro and Tour for GC?
Matt: If you want a top placing in both then it would be very difficult, yes.
You’ve seen the guys that tried to do both – Basso, Cadel . . . Although, in fairness, the first week of the Tour was very hard with all the attacks and crashes.
Matt won the Giro’s green KOM jersey this year- the first Australian to do it.
PEZ: What did you do between the Giro and the Tour?
Matt: The Giro was fantastic for me (stage win and King of the Mountains) and whilst I didn’t race between the Giro and the Tour, I carried that form into the Tour. The start of the Tour was flat, so that let me settle in. The team hasn’t put me under any pressure so I’m fresh for this last week in the mountains.
PEZ: Some riders we’ve been talking to say that this Tour is just too damn hard.
Matt: That just sounds like people complaining, to me! The Alpine stages weren’t crazy – but in the Giro we had day after day of big climbs. It’s the Tour, it’s supposed to be hard! I could have done with another week in the Pyrenees!
PEZ: What’s your favourite thing about the Tour?
Matt: The atmosphere, it’s so cosmopolitan, there are people here from so many different countries and cultures, all enjoying quite a simple thing – a bike race.
PEZ: And your least favourite thing?
Matt: The drama, the ‘super hype’ – there are things happen every day in bike races and no one even notices. That incident with Andy Schleck’s chain coming off, for instance – you can’t just stop the race. But it’s such a big show that everything has to be a story.
PEZ: It is one big circus.
Matt: There’s a romance about the Giro, every edition is considered a beautiful race in it’s own way. The commercial side of the Tour is massive, they’re trying to go down the Formula One route. The race is about people and emotions and to over commercialize that is destructive.
PEZ: Your best day of the Tour?
Matt: Yesterday was very exciting; when you’re young and you watch a bike race on TV and see someone drop back from the break you realise you are seeing something special. That’s what I did yesterday, you feel like your part of a bigger thing, something special – you’re taking responsibility for the race. The atmosphere on the team bus because we’d done a good job was great, so much happiness – special.
PEZ: And your worst day?
Matt: There hasn’t really been one; I’ve made it a special ambition not to crash and it’s working, so far.
Matt paces Jurgen Van Den Broeck in the Tour mountains.
PEZ: What’s your role?
Matt: The GC for Jurgen Van Den Broeck is our main goal – and that’s going well – but we want a stage win, too. If you win a stage in the Tour it’s hugely prestigious and that means I have freedom to try and get in the breaks.
PEZ: Jurgen has been a surprise.
Matt: He gained a lot of experience from racing with Cadel in 2009, that was very beneficial for him and for the team. Cadel is a rider who is always watching what the other guys are doing and Jurgen has learned to do that too. He’s also developed, he’s a year stronger and understands which moves to be with – he’s a very intelligent rider.
PEZ: Charly Wegelius is out off the race, you must miss him?
Matt: Charly is a brilliant climbing figure in the team and his absence places pressure on the rest of us, but yesterday Mario Aerts and Danny Moreno were very strong in the group for us.
PEZ: There are so many Aussie fans here.
Matt: Yeah, it’s great, for Australians the journey to Europe itself is so long that folks make it a big holiday and get really excited about it and have seeing the Tour de France as one of their objectives. My parents come over every year to see me in the Giro and Tour and are just amazed by how many Aussies are here.
PEZ: The Worlds, Melbourne – a goal?
Matt: I think in Australia in October you can’t guarantee good weather; in fact I’d almost guarantee wind and rain – and that’s a difficult circuit. I’d love to do it but realistically it’s more suited to the sprinters. The circuit goes up and down, it’ll be tough for the big guys – a Freire or McEwen could win it. But so to could someone like Voeckler, he could clear off with 30 K and you’d never see him again.
PEZ: Giro and Tour, you must be due a rest?
Matt: I think so! Directly after the Tour my brother is coming over from Australia, he’s a bit of a party animal so we’ll be indulging in normal activities – that’s good for me to unwind. Then I’ll be riding the late season classics in Italy. They’re all not far from where I live in Varese – that’s a nice way to finish your season.
# with thanks to Matt Lloyd. for his time and to Omega Pharma Lotto’s Brunhilde Verhenne for setting the interview up. #