Michael Matthews: the Amstel Gold Race
Following the triumph in Paris-Roubaix many believed that Orica-GreenEdge could back up and win the next round of the WorldTour, the Amstel Gold Race. In Holland on Sunday Michael Matthews was the best of the Australian team in fifth.
A comment piece was posted the morning after about the rivalry that seems to be developing between Matthews and Simon Gerrans.
It’s not the first time the pair have finished high in the standings while racing as co-leaders. Both have finished on the podium of the Amstel Gold Race but the win still eludes OGE.
Both Matthews and Gerrans are expected to be part of the Orica-GreenEdge line-up for Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and possibly even at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
RIDE contacted many people involved with the team to discuss the machinations surrounding leadership at OGE and, as part of what will be an ongoing narrative in 2016. The first to speak was Michael Matthews.
You can hear the full interview on RIDE’s Soundcloud stream and/or read the transcript of the exchange between Michael Matthews and Rob Arnold below.
RIDE: I’m talking with Michael Matthews the day after he came fifth in Amstel Gold, the year after he came third in Amstel Gold. What did you make of the race?
Michael Matthews: “It was all going super well but I think the race wasn’t like I expected, the way I was training for.
“The way I trained for it was for it to be a super hard race and maybe like a super negative race too where lots of guys would be attacking and it was going to be a really hard race.
“In the end it was actually super easy. All we did was just roll around all day.
“Nothing ever really happened.
“It wasn’t quite the race that I had sort of hoped for.
“[There’s] not much really that you can say. But when you haven’t really got Philippe Gilbert there in top shape – and guys like that who are really in top shape and going to animate the race in the final Cauberg – it makes the race a little bit unpredictable.
“I went up the Cauberg the last time in good position and ready for someone to launch – or someone not to – and wait for the sprint. But over the top of the climb [Enrico] Gasparotto went. There were a few guys in front of me that I assumed would go with him too but didn’t end up going.
“I saw the Lotto guy in front of me and another Lotto guy behind me so I was, like, ‘For sure they’re going to work together and just try and bring them back…’ There’s no point me trying to launch across and bring everyone back and then everyone attacks over me again. So it was a bit of a gamble, not going with Gasparotto when he went.
“Then the [Tinkoff] guys [Michael Valgren] went and still no one chased.
“I had to really gamble from that point that someone else was going to work… and no one else wanted to work. Everyone wanted to sit back and wait for the sprint so from then on it was pretty much: game over. Unfortunately.”
We saw, when Tim Wellens was up the road, you had a tiny little stint in the wind and then [Michael] Albasini came through from it seems like no where and he put in a really good turn. That was leading towards the Cauberg. What were your thoughts at that point?
“I thought it was all going really well from that point. I was in a really good position. The boys had done a really good job up that final straight before we got to the roundabout.
“I was feeling super. I hadn’t really touched the pedals all day. It was on probably one of the best days that I’ve had on the bike in a long time.
“Everyone else around me was really hurting and I still felt like I hadn’t even raced yet. So I was really confident at that point, going into the Cauberg but I guess when you’re not really sure what’s going to happen up the Cauberg – or who is going to go, or what’s really going to happen – it’s hard to pick what you’re going to do.
“Maybe in that situation I should have just attacked myself. Maybe I underestimated myself at little bit in the final there and unfortunately I paid the price.”
A big talking point is that this is the first time you’ve raced with Simon Gerrans since the worlds: you were second, he was sixth. Yesterday you were fifth, he was 11th… it seemed like when you were on the right of the road, he was on the left or vice-versa. Did you speak with Simon very much in the finale there?
“No we didn’t talk.
“We had the plan from Matthew White in the morning and that’s pretty much what we stuck to. We did what we were told and it didn’t pay off, unfortunately.”
So what was the instruction from ‘Whitey’?
“It was for me to go with whoever starts on the climb and Simon to wait and go with stuff over the top.
“No one went on the climb and Gasparotto went over the top. So that, I guess, was a hard decision to know who was going to go with that move – whether it should have been me or him, it’s hard to say at the moment but yeah… it’s done now and it’s a missed opportunity, I think, for sure.”
Is there animosity between you and Simon or does it just sort of appear that way watching the television?
“That’s the thing, I think it’s [that] me and Simon, we’re both ‘winners’. We both want to win the race, when it comes down to it. And the director says, ‘You [are] both Plan-A, you both think you can win the race…’
“I think that’s when it comes down to… if you’re a real winner you do everything to win and that’s unfortunately what we both are. We’ll both do anything to try and win the race and I guess we were riding our own races.”
In a situation like that – and I don’t want to sort of make out as though it’s a huge scandal, you had a great race and it comes a week after Mathew’s fantastic performance in Paris-Roubaix – but is there a point where you and Simon should be having a bit more of a discussion about maybe one leading the other out or chasing down or doing the work? Because both in Richmond and yesterday [in Amstel Gold] it seemed like, if one of you had worked it would have netted maybe a better result… not that silver at the worlds is anything to be sneezed at.
“Yeah, I guess that’s up to the directors to tell us what to do: that’s their job.
“I don’t think it’s up to us to really make that decision. That’s why we have a team director in the race, to tell us what to do, and then we stick to that plan.
“But when the team director says to do that, that’s what we do. And for me or for Simon to do something other than what the team director told us to do in the race – especially when we’re both ‘winners’, we both want to win, and we both think we can win…
“I guess when the team director gives you that opportunity to say, ‘You can go for it…’ you’re not going to turn around and give away your chance, you know?
“I can see where we’re both coming from, from that point of view.”
While we’re talking about teamwork, what we saw from Luke Durbridge, Mathew Hayman, Michael Albasini, Daryl Impey… it was formidable throughout the race and, let’s say, the last 50 kilometres. You guys were all over everything that moved.
“Yeah, definitely. They rode a super race. I just wish other teams would make it a bit more animated too.
“Where Albasini and Impey started attacking, that was where the race sort of got exciting and that’s where guys were getting dropped and it was… the race was on from there. And we were hoping that other teams would do a similar tactic to us by making that race more exciting and harder for the other guys to get there.
“With me in super form that’s the best way I can try and win a race like that, make everyone super tired at the bottom of the Cauberg through that last 50km and then I launch from there. But, as you can seen, guys were still quite fresh on that final climb and I couldn’t – oh yeah, maybe I could, maybe I couldn’t – make that final difference on the Cauberg like it usually is with Gilbert. Everyone gets to the bottom of that Cauberg and they’re all stuffed…
“It wasn’t your typical race like it usually is.
“We were just cruising around all day. No one really animated the race until Impey and Albasini really started lighting it up and unfortunately either could, or didn’t.
“In the end, they did a super job and Mathew Hayman… I was with him all day and he is one of the biggest reasons why I had so much strength in the final there, because he just rode a super race. He was always putting me in position, always just laying off the wheel a little bit – saving energy, not kicking out of all the corners – and we were still able to be there coming into the Cauberg.
“That’s impressive, especially after what he did for himself the weekend before in Roubaix.”
…The story continues.
Part 2 of the interview will be published (in words) on 19/04 but find out more about Michael Matthews’ schedule for the rest of 2016 by listening to the end of the interview…
– Interview by Rob Arnold