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Matthews: “The next clear target will be the worlds”

Matthews: “The next clear target will be the worlds”

Michael Matthews has won an under-23 road race gold medal and a silver in the elite… but now he believes it’s time for another rainbow jersey.

“It’s definitely my next focus,” said Michael Matthews about his quest for the world championships. He made these comments in July just after finishing his mission for the European summer with his Sunweb trade team at the Tour de France.

Speaking to RIDE moments after he stepped down from the podium in the centre of the Champs-Elysées to receive the green jersey as winner of the 2017 Tour de France points classification, it was clear that the rainbow jersey was already on his mind.

“After this soaks in, I’ll refocus again for that,” he said, pulling on the sleeves of his green jersey. “I still have other races in between too, with London and the Canadian classics that are a big target.

“The next clear target will be the worlds.”

A week after his 11th place in the 21st stage of the Tour de France, Matthews finished third in the London-Surrey Cycle Classic – beaten by Alexander Kristoff and former team-mate Magnus Cort, both Scandinavians who will be motivated for the worlds in Bergen.

At the end of August, Matthews was fifth in the GP Plouay, a one-day race that’s part of the UCI’s WorldTour in 2017. Ahead of him on 28 August was Elia Viviani, Kristoff, Sonny Cobrelli and Sep Vanmarcke, all riders who will have hopes for a strong performance in the road race championships on Sunday 24 September.

The “Canadian classics” that Matthews spoke about in Paris earlier this year are to be contested next week: the GP Cycliste de Quebec (8 September) and the GP Cycliste de Montreal (10 September).

He was the runner-up in Montreal in 2015 (behind Rigoberto Uran) and finished fifth and fourth in the Canadian races last year.

Matthews has been talking about the course in Bergen, Norway for several years. It is one that suits his strengths and the aim is to improve on his second place in 2015 in Richmond, USA.

He finished fourth in the world championships of 2016, just missing out on the podium after finishing behind Sagan and two other former world champions, Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen. He did, however, recognise that the circuit in Qatar wasn’t ideally suited to his style of riding.

The men’s road race will feature a 39.5km prelude to the 11 laps of the 17.9km circuit in Bergen which includes the challenge of ‘Salmon Hill’.

The 267.5km race in Norway is expected to be a showdown between the kind of riders who were vying for the rainbow jersey in Richmond two years ago: strong men who can sprint at the end of a long, tough race.

Matthews will be well supported by eight compatriots as part of an Australian team that can field the maximum number of nine starters.

The line up for the Australian team was announced by Cycling Australia earlier today.

There is a wealth of talent of offer for selectors to choose from but perhaps the biggest surprise is the absence of Nathan Haas who had hoped to be wearing the green and gold jersey in Norway later this month.

Haas will switch trade teams at the end of the year, moving from Dimension Data to Katusha, but he had hoped to be among the selection of nine for Bergen.

“The world championships is 12 days after [the Canadian races],” Haas told RIDE in August, “so if I get called up to go, I’ll be super focussed to be there.”

 

* * * * *

The Australian line-up for the elite men’s road race at last year’s world championships (from left to right, above): Mark Renshaw, Michael Matthews, Heinrich Haussler, Mitch Docker, Caleb Ewan, Luke Durbridge, Steele von Hoff and Mathew Hayman.

Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

“We look forward to Nathan being part of the Australian team in future campaigns,” said one of the four selectors, Brad McGee, earlier today.

“This time around it wasn’t his turn.”

The selection panel for the Australia team is comprised of McGee, Rik Fulcher, Dave McPartland and Cycling Australia’s high performance director Simon Jones.

“We look forward to Nathan potentially forming a leader type role in future campaigns,” concluded McGee on the non-selection of Haas.

(McGee offered his appraisal on the full line-up of nine for the elite men’s road race and we’ll publish this overview later today.)

 

* * * * *

 

The presence of Heinrich Haussler may come as something of a surprise given his relative lack of race days in 2017 but he has been an asset to the national team in the past and was one of the key men in two campaigns that yielded silver medals in the past: 2011 (when Matt Goss finished second to Cavendish) and 2015 (when Matthews was second to Sagan).

McGee is confident that Haussler will be able to cover the distance of the road race and provide the valuable support that Matthews requires if he is to improve on his second and fourth place in recent years.

 

It’s an exciting time for cycling and with the start of the world championships only 12 days away, it won’t be long before we find out who the champions of the world will be in 2017.

 

– By Rob Arnold

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Photo: Yuzuru Sunada
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