Parenting and Professional Cycling: In Conversation with Daniel Lloyd

I’m incredibly excited to say that my Parenting and professional cycling series continues, this time with Dan Lloyd, Grand Tour finisher and current GCN presenter. Dan had a solid rise through the ranks of professional cycling in a short space of time and enjoyed success along the way. Dan didn’t start his career in professional cycling until after his 25th birthday so, there’s still hope out there for some!

  • At what age in your life do you think that you were interested by cycling and was there a certain inspiration which got you on the bike?

I got into it when I was 13.  My friend’s Uncle used to give him old copies of MBUK magazine, and it really sparked an interest for me.  I pestered my Dad to get me a MTB, and about 8 months later, for Christmas, he got me a Marin Muirwoods.  It was about £400, I loved it, and I loved the sport.  That was when I got addicted to it, basically.

  • What came first professional cycling or parenting? Am I right in thinking they coincided around the same time?

For me it was slightly different to convention, in that when I met my wife, our older son Ralf was already 3, so I didn’t do the early years with him.  I was 25 at the time, and still hadn’t really made it.  Lorraine had to be patient with both me and Ralf from that respect, as I continued to try and make a career out of it.  So you’re right, they kind of coincided.  Jude was born in 2011, which was the year that I didn’t get my contract renewed with Garmin, so it has never really been such a factor in his life.

  • What was it like travelling Europe with a small baby at home and a first time mum? Did you have much time to think about what was going on at home or were you focused on racing and your job?

I’d say I was still very focussed.  I think every pro cyclist is, even if becoming a parent changes your life and outlook significantly.  When Jude was born, for example, he was a little early, so I came home the day after Amstel, landed at 2pm, and was back home with Lorraine and a baby by 11pm.  In my head I was still going to go back for Fleche and Liege, as I was due a break after that period anyway, but the team told me to stay at home.

I have always been very fortunate with Lorraine, she’s a real doer, from family life to work life, she just gets things done, without (too) much fuss!  That makes a big difference.

  • You must be passionate about cycling to get in to racing but is there a point that you think, this is no longer my passion, this is my job and a way to provide for my family?

I don’t think I was at the top level long enough for that to become ‘a thing’ for me.  The first time that anything like that dawned on me was when my contract wasn’t renewed.  Until that point, my career had always been on an upward trajectory, both in terms of the level that I was riding, and also the money I was earning.  The end of 2011 was tough for a few weeks, as I had no plan for what to do after racing, and I suddenly realised how hard it was going to be, to earn a similar amount in the ‘real world’.

Again, Lorraine came into her own.  She hadn’t been working for a year, but immediately realised what the situation could be, and went out and got a job.  As it turned out, I landed on my feet with a few other things in 2012, and then GCN came along at the end of that year, but it was only really that time at the end of 2011 where I realised what financial responsibility I had to provide for my family.

  • It must be easy for people to forget that you were, once, a professional cyclist before a GCN presenter and Eurosport commentator. Considering you’ve ridden in four classics and finished two Giro’s and a Tour, what is your proudest moment on the bike and also off of it?

Proudest moment on the bike will always be my first Tour of Flanders.  It was the race that I always loved the most, and to be honest I don’t think I ever thought I’d ride it.  The whole experience was amazing, from start to finish.  The start in Bruges gave me good bumps – that massive square packed with fans, riding up on to the podium with Thor and Heino, that was brilliant.  And then in the race itself, I was going really well (for me).  Between the Paterberg and the Koppenberg, I’d made the front selection, and so Andreas Klier said to attack if I could.  I went, Chavanel, Quinziato and Leif Hoste followed me, and so for a while, deep into the race, I was at the front.

After that, the dream soon came to an end, the lights went out for me when Chavanal attacked, and I was later passed by Boonen, Devolder and Pozzato at warp speed, but it was a great experience, particularly with Heino getting 2nd on the day.

Off the bike, I’m of course proudest of my family.  Like everyone, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve come through strong and it’s great to see how well Ralf and Jude are doing in life.  From a work perspective, I’m very proud of what we’ve all achieved at GCN.  We didn’t really know what we were doing at the start, we were just kind of making it up as we went along, but every single person worked their arses off, and that paid off, just as it would do in sport.  What gives me the most satisfaction is the feedback we get from the public.  I like to think that we made cycling accessible, and fun, which is why we all got into it in the first place.

  • Your first Grand Tour came in 2009 at the Giro d’Italia, which you’re now doing a very good job on reporting for Eurosport, what was that first tour like, the training, the preparation, riding it? When did you find out you were going to be riding it that year and how did that feel?

The preparation was awful – I’d come down with some sort of bug in the lead up to the race, so I just wasn’t feeling myself.  It got to the point where I felt so bad in training, that I was considering calling management to say that I wasn’t in a fit state to ride.  It’s the last feeling you want to have on the lead up to your first Grand Tour.

Thankfully, I felt good during the race itself.  I made the mistake of eating and drinking too much (on the bike!), though, and put on 4kgs in 2 weeks.  I was just so fearful of bonking or not having enough energy to make it through, that I went overboard.  It was tough, but also rewarding – we got 4 stage wins, and Carlos was up there overall.  The whole thing was a massive learning curve, but like many things in cycling, it was fun, in hindsight!

  • You strike me as a man who would have a very understanding wife and who would support your training fully by looking after the kids while you went off galivanting on the bike… What was it like for you?

I’ve already alluded to that, above, but you’re right, Lorraine was always very supportive of my training and racing.  And that’s one of the reasons that I don’t ride so much now.  I’m still away a fair bit, and up at the office a lot, so I just can’t justify getting home and heading out on the bike for 2 hours, it wouldn’t be fair.

  • One thing I feel when I go off on my bike / train and leave my wife with the kids is guilt, I feel guilty that I’m having a nice time away from the kids relaxing, while they’re both probably screaming, crying, causing havoc and driving my wife mad. Do you ever get over that?

Yeah, you do.  Ralf is 16, Jude is 8, we’ve got past that stage.  In fact, if Lorraine and I want to head out for the evening, Ralf looks after Jude – they get along pretty well.  At this stage of life, the stresses are less, it’s just a case of taking them to their various clubs, sport etc.  And to be honest, with Ralf driving in a few months time, it’s going to get even easier.

I used to get a heavy heart when I was shutting the door to go away for a few weeks.  It wasn’t so much guilt at not behind able to do my part, but just the wrenching feeling of knowing how much I was going to miss them.  That actually got harder as I got older, I don’t know why.

My tactic was always to claim that I’d had very hard days when I was away, but I’m pretty sure I was never believed…..

  • What advice would you have to any cycling parent to young kids?

That depends.  If you’re a pro, you need to use it as extra motivation, to push yourself harder, to be more efficient with your time, to make the most of every moment that you’re having to spend away from your family.

If cycling is just a hobby, it’s a really tough one.  I would say that most people have to throttle right back on the amount of time they dedicate to cycling, and I also think that’s the way it should be.  It takes up an enormous amount of time, and money too.  The parenting phase of your life is a long one, and I guess it never really ends, but there will come a time when you’ll have a bit more freedom again, and that is the point at which you can spend longer cycling again.  Before that – concentrate on your family, just ride if or when you have time.

  • You’ve got the power to change one thing about professional cycling, what is it?

Based on the first week of the Giro, I’d say long boring sprint stages.  Unfortunately, like most, I don’t have the answer.  I like watching the sprints, I have so much respect for what those guys and girls do, but the 5 hours or so that comes before it is, I think, a terrible advert for our sport.  If you’ve never watched a bike race before, and you flick over with 80kms to go on a flat stage, you’re never going to watch a bike race again.  It’s a tough one – I’m all for tradition, but at the same time I don’t want cycling to get left behind because it wasn’t willing to adapt.

 

So there we have it – Daniel Lloyd on Parenting and Professional Cycling, for me, I will take away the advice cycling and having young kids – Dan is right, when it comes to it you do have to take a step back from your hobbies when you become a parent. Accepting that and with less peer pressure and time, it get’s easier and more about the enjoyment of cycling that clocking miles and high average speeds.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this series and if there’s anyone who you would like to see interviewed, comment below if there is anyone you would like and I would do my damnedest to track them down!

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