Thursday 24 November 2011

Daniel Lloyd: An Interview

This time last year he was knocking out 2 hours of tempo while I grimly held on to his back wheel. The option to come through was there but I was unable to take it. Even on the south coast the weather was bad, it was either freezing cold or pouring with rain but mostly it was both. Dan Lloyd would not waver; he was motivated at the thought of riding with his new team, Garmin-Cervelo and riding for World Champion Thor Hushovd.

Fast- forward six months to the Criterium Du Dauphine, for two days Daniel Lloyd and his Garmin-Cervelo team drove the bunch along. Watching on Euro-sport the commercial breaks came and went and still the poker faced Lloyd sat on the front. But each day as the finale loomed and Garmin-Cervelo faded, the man for whom all the work was being done, Tyler Farrar, was nowhere to be seen. Not his fault perhaps? After all, other teams had their tactics, cycling is not so predictable. Had Farrar taken a win, perhaps Lloyd’s stock would be higher? It’s the nature of team sport, good individual performances get lost in defeat, just as poor performances can be hidden in victory.

Jump forward another 5 months, it’s the first frost of a very mild autumn on the south coast and I am out on the bike with Lloyd again. There is no tempo this time, it’s just a ride and a chat and with no contract for next season Lloyd is contemplating retirement. The door remains slightly ajar with one last opportunity, When will he hear?

“I don’t really know it’s the final chance really, at least with a top level team” Is he fed up? “I have got past the point of being pissed off that I cannot carry on; though I think next year when the racing starts it will hit me. I am pissed off that I have not got a final yes or no; it kind of stops you from continuing on. I like riding the bike but if anything the last couple of weeks has taught me I like riding it to get as fit as I can, I don’t just like riding, I have had plenty of opportunities to go out but I cannot be bothered to go out. For me the whole thing of riding is having that plan for the next 4 to 8 weeks to stick to and trying to get better. It’s hard to stick to an 8 week plan, I don’t even know if I will be racing!
What about racing at a lower level?
“Not straight away, no I will leave it 2 or 3 years, so I don’t have the same expectation and other people don’t have the same expectations”
In light of recent comments from Hushovd, I ask him about the Garmin team, what it was like?
“I enjoyed it the whole way through; I got on well with the staff, directors and riders. I think, you know, our group as a whole, Cervelo did not seem to fit in with the management, as there is only one who has been re-signed. (Andreas Klier) None of us really know, the 5 of us that came from Cervelo that have not signed for next year, what the problem was. Back in April, May we were asking about next year and the feedback was all very positive we don’t know what changed between then and the end of the season. In May I was a bit worried about my race programme, I hardly had any days of racing in June, July & August. I wrote to the Director, I don’t complain too much but only had 12 days of racing in 3 months; I could have done with some more racing. The team were aware of Lloyds concerns “If you are worried about next year, you don’t need to be” he was told “When you have just had a kid it’s something you want to hear” (Daniels son Jude was born in April) “If you hear something like that and you are happy with the team you are with it stops you looking round for another place”
In hindsight was it the wrong thing to hear?
“Yeah, I mean it did not change my work ethic or attitude on the bike in training or racing or wanting to do my best. But it changed me in respect of responsibilities with a house and family and keeping a job, you start putting feelers out early, before we found out that Leopard Trek were merging with RadioShack and before HTC were definitely going. By the time I started to get the drift that actually there might not be a place for me, that had all happened and there were loads of riders on the market. Managers were waiting to see which riders they could take from those teams. I am certainly not bitter and not blaming anyone, I realise there are loads and loads of riders at my level, I have no right to stay here, if you are Wiggins or Cavendish you have a right to stay in cycling but at my level there are a lot of other people who have the same power, maybe not the same knowledge & experience but they can gain that and they are cheaper when they are younger”
Uncomfortably honest as always but it will be a shame if that experience is lost to the sport.
“I was still learning as well, you do see a lot of young riders coming through who have all the power in the world; I wish I had that talent. In terms of helping a leader though, timing is as important as anything in terms of being there at the right time, if you are not there at that moment all that power cannot help”

By now we had stopped for Coffee in the Hampshire town of Ringwood. It was market day and we looked slightly out of place in our cycling kit in the busy coffee house. We manage to find a table on which we both put our smart phones, mine to record the conversation, Dan’s, in the hope that it would ring, I notice that the screen on his phone is all smashed up? “I don’t know whether it was because I was stressed out at the end of the year but I came off in training and broke my phone. It was stupid; I was constantly looking at my phone in training. I kept thinking the next email was going to be the one with more positive news, a gust of wind caught my front wheel and I just ended up on the floor and smashed my phone, I was so pissed off” he says ruefully. “When you are a pro you don’t really mind crashing, yes it hurts but as long as it’s not your fault you accept it. When you crash in training and it’s completely your own fault, it’s so annoying”
I take him back to when Cervelo was absorbed by Garmin, was he relieved to be taken on when other riders were not?
“I actually had another couple of options, I could have gone to other teams last year, and there were two fairly solid offers on the table. That’s the thing you know, if you are in a successful team like Cervelo was or HTC when it folds all the other teams come in like vultures and see who they can get. It’s almost better to be in those teams, I don’t think out of those two teams anyone has been out of a job for the last two years. When you are in a team that doesn’t fold there is no way for other teams to know you are available. There is not really a transfer system. They assume you are under contract, by the time they realise you are out of contract they have filled their rosters!
Daniel Lloyd is a hugely likeable guy, after more than 8 years as a full time rider I cannot imagine he has made one enemy in the pro peloton. Why does he think he has no contract next year?
He starts to talk about less places being available but he tails off “…I’m not really sure, it’s another surprising thing from within the Garmin team, I had the support of a lot of the riders, big riders in the team respected what I did as a team member and gave me support towards the management, you start to think you must have done something seriously wrong if they’re not going to take me when I have this much backing, I don’t know, you can speculate all day.”
I take him back further, to when he first went abroad to France to race in 2002, was he nervous?
“I was, I had done half a year with Russell Downing out there and got a bit of a hammering really, even though I had had a good first part of the season back here, I had won a few races”
And if he does retire what are the highlights?
Tour De France obviously, it’s not everyone who gets to race and finish it. The Tour of Flanders, that’s the one I really always look forward to” Lloyd has been on the scene a long time, I suggest that a lot of that time he has gone unnoticed, does he feel ignored in the press “I’m not really bothered about it you know, I never did cycling for the money or to get into the press. I wanted to do the big races and get better every year and achieve personal goals that I had within the sport and one of them was not to get as much press as I could. It’s just not me, I not happy with self-promotion, perhaps in hindsight it would be better, and my name might be in managers heads a bit more. When I first joined Cervelo, I did well and there was a lot of respect for the work that I did. They rewarded it with a two year contract. I really got into the role of helping others and was hoping that would continue for quite a few years. It’s a bit like living your dreams through your son or daughter in some ways. I got to the point where I knew I could not win a mountain stage in the Giro and I can’t win the Tour of Flanders but I have teammates who are well capable of doing it so I can be part of it. How fantastic it must be to be part of the world championship squad, everyone talks about how much of a team performance that was, they can all look back at it and be part of the team that won the worlds for Great Britain in 2011! The pleasure that Wiggins and Millar and all the others got that day is what I get.”
Does he want to stay in cycling?
“I really want to stay in the racing side of the sport, I don’t want to stop racing but I may not have any choice. I love racing at a high level and when I get home and there is a race on tele, I will watch that as well” There are a few different directions to go, it’s just choosing the right one”
It’s easy for me to urge him to carry on, to continue to chase the dream, but Lloyd knows that at the end of every month the rent has to be paid. Two years with a smaller team may put him two years behind in another career “It’s difficult” he says
No doubt other doors will open for Dan, he has ideas and there are opportunities out there.
“Because I had not planned on finishing right now, I have not got a definitive plan of what I want to do afterwards
It might be boring but what am I going to do next that’s not boring in comparison?”
When we leave the cafĂ©, the early chill is gone, it’s a familiar route home but there is no urgency. We even go off-road, a short cut across the meadows, some “rough stuff”, just for a laugh.

A day later Dan sent me a text:The door that was ajar had closed!


  1. great interview.
    Can i republish on bike pure? will put full links in,
    hope all well

  2. Our Daniel Lloyd a great local talent & shame when the door was shut early on a pro career.
    Remember the years racing with the Bournemouth Arrow CC on the road you just know then he was on route to great things then. His TV work on the YouTube channel he does is good, and was nice to see him doing some mountain bike XC racing at the southern XC race series.