We’ve already spoken to Luke Roberts about the hopes of Sunweb’s designated leader for the Tour de France and it’s clear that Michael Matthews is chasing stage wins and the green jersey. After the eviction of Peter Sagan, however, it’s worthwhile having a second chat to find out if the plans have changed at all.
Luke Roberts Q&A: before stage six
RIDE: I’m with Luke Roberts (directeur sportif of the Sunweb team) and it’s all different now; the last time we spoke there was Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish still in the race but [their absence] changes the whole dynamic for you, don’t it?
Luke Roberts: “Yeah, it certainly opens the green jersey competition up a little bit more. We’ve had Michael in the race until now for that competition and we have to keep chipping away at that.
“Of course, in these flat sprints (like is expected in stage six) there’s still a couple of really quick guys in there with Marcel Kittel and [Arnaud] Démare.
“It’ll be tough for Michael to tick off one of these stages but we’ll give it our best today and in the flat sprints to come. And we have a couple of stages still where Michael can go in there as one of the favourites as well.”
I know [stage five] was a climbing stage but the intermediate sprint yesterday offered a glimpse of Michael’s top-end speed. He really seemed to have the measure [of his rivals].
“Yeah, also with the way we’re working with the sprint train… the Tour de Suisse was the first time the guys really came together.
“There were not so many flat sprints there to practice with so the guys are also getting that down better and hopefully we can also set up a good train for him in the finishes.”
Number 141: Michael Matthews. The “1v” denotes his one stage win during the Tour, from 2016 in Revel.
I would imagine there is a planned sequence. Can you talk me through who that is, just quick – just what the order of peeling off is?
“We have some guys like Simon Geschke, Laurens Ten Dam and Warren Barguil that will just help set the guys up in a good position once the stress starts.
“There’s a big motor like Albert Timmer to bring the guys into position as the crucial moments come, with Roy Curvers as our road captain to guide the process.
“And then come the big engines with Mike Theunissen, Ramon Sinkeldam and Nikias Arndt as the final guys in the lead-out.”
…Lotto-Soudal, for example tell me that they do the same sequence every single time. Will it be the same for you?
“We vary a little bit. Also, Michael is not so used riding behind a train so it’s a process he needs to learn to practice.
“The [lead-out] guys are pretty drilled – those who have worked, in the past, with John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel before on this team. But they also need to adapt to Michael’s style of riding.
“Once we fine-tune it we normally have a pretty quick, solid train.”
The Propel is one of three bike options from Giant that Matthews will use in the 2017 Tour… he is the only rider at Sunweb to use disc brakes so far in the race. And this is only the second stage in which he has used this style of braking…
We see Michael’s [Giant] Propel next to you, with the disc brakes: so it’s ‘flat stage, disc brakes’ – aerodynamic advantage is the point, isn’t it?
“Yeah, that comes into it. There definitely is an aerodynamic advantage with the Propel.
“Michael loves the bike and also the braking performance of it is helpful for him in some of these hectic finishes so it’s a great bike for a flat sprint stage.”
Just quickly, on the disc brakes, the wheel change policy: what are you going to do? Pull the thru-axles out and swap wheels, or just give him a new bike (if he punctures)?
“It is, obviously, just a few seconds extra to change the thru-axle on the disc brake bike but early in the stage normally we’ll change the wheel. If it comes towards the last hour of racing and the speed starts to pick up, then a bike change can be the better option. But we’ll take that call on the road.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold