To begin a series of previews about contenders for the rainbow jerseys in September 2022, let’s consider the ‘home team’ and which riders are likely to get the call up for the final event, the elite men’s road race. The obvious nomination for leader of the Australian team is the motivated Michael Matthews.


– By Rob Arnold


With a little over a month to go before the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, there has been no mention from AusCycling about rider selection for the national team. Still, if we consider current form, experience at the worlds, and the nature of the route for the 266.9km elite men’s road race, it’s clear that Michael Matthews is the number-one candidate for leadership.

The rider from Canberra is currently at an altitude training camp in Italy honing his form before a series of one-day races in advance of the championships in Wollongong. It’s a personal project and although he is yet to hear about selection, he’s pushing on with his plans for a tilt at the title on 25 September.

It’s logical that he should be leader and many with world championship experience agree that Matthews should be the protected rider from the host nation.

When Cadel Evans was asked who the best chance for an Australian victory in 2022 is, he nominated Matthews. All going well, we’ll soon know who will be alongside the 31-year-old who is chasing an elite rainbow jersey to add to the under-23 one he claimed in Geelong in 2010.

Michael Matthews won the under-23 road race world championship in Geelong back in 2010. He is a favourite for the elite road in 2022, but is still waiting on confirmation that he will be part of the Australian team for #Wollongong2022. (Photo: Jeff Crow)

Cadel’s victory in Mendrisio in 2009 came from a stunning last-lap attack on a circuit in Switzerland close to his European home. It was a stunning performance, one that captured the imagination of the nation and put cycling in the headlines in Australia.

Evans remains closely involved with the racing scene, having recently been announced as an ‘ambassador’ for #Wollongong2022, and he believes Matthews has the qualities to score another victory at the worlds in Australia.

“This course is made for Michael Matthews,” said Evans earlier this month.

“Let’s remember Michael Matthews knows how to race at home,” continued Evans

“He won the under-23 championships in Geelong, and I think he’s going to be eying off this Wollongong course with a lot of enthusiasm.”

Michael Matthews has extended his contract with Team BikeExchange-Jayco through to the end of 2025. (Photo: courtesy of GreenEdge Cycling)

Matthews triumphed in Geelong in 2010 thanks to a stunning uphill sprint on Moorabool Street. He judged his effort to perfection and scored the only rainbow jersey for an Australian when the road worlds were first contested in Australia.

Fast-forward 12 years and Matthews continues to demonstrate that he is worthy of leadership, certainly for a race like the worlds where he has the proven ability to reach peak form at exactly the right time.

The road race in Wollongong has been a target for Matthews from the moment he knew that Australia would again be hosting the world championships.

The motivation to race in front of family and friends should never be underestimated. The last major event he contested in Australia was the Tour Down Under of 2014 and there have been many career highlights since. Furthermore, this versatile rider now has fresh energy and confidence after his stunning Tour de France stage victory in Mende this July.

Moments before victory in stage 14 of the 2022 Tour de France… (Photo: Zac Williams)

Between that TDU of 2014 and his latest stage win in the Tour de France, Matthews has achieved plenty of success at the highest level. He’s won stages of the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and Vuelta a España, and worn the leader’s jersey in the Italian and Spanish Grand Tours. He is the third Australian to win the TDF green jersey. He’s finished second, third and fourth in the worlds… and has matured into one of the most formidable one-day riders of his generation.

“He’s twice been on the podium in the elite road race,” explained Cadel, referring to Matthews’ silver medal in 2015 and his bronze in 2017.

Both of those races – in Richmond (USA) and Bergen (Norway), respectively – were won by Peter Sagan, a triple world champion who hasn’t been able to find his spark in 2022.

That is a rivalry that defined the times: the Slovakian often came out on top, but the Australian was always in the mix for victory in tough, long and demanding battles like what world championship road races inevitably come down to.

In 2015, Matthews finished second to Peter Sagan in the world championships in Richmond, USA.

In 2022, Matthews continues to show his class as well as his versatility while, these days, Sagan is rarely even referenced as a contender.

The stage victory by Matthews at the Tour de France this July was a fine example of why the 31-year-old is difficult to categorise. On the brutally steep final ascent of stage 14, from St-Etienne to Mende, he battled his demons and triumphed in sensational style. The ‘sprinter’, everyone realised, is also a climber!

If you’re able to win on that kind of terrain, in a TDF that was as tough as this year’s race was, then it’s obvious that leadership for a race like the worlds beckons. Furthermore, Matthews also knows how to manage the pressure of competing in a home world championship, and still come up on top. Surely this is what the selectors will be aware of when they eventually decide who will wear the green-and-gold in Wollongong.

“He knows how to be there in the front,” says Evans of Matthews.


An anticipated homecoming…

Michael Matthews is excited about the prospect of racing in Australia again. He will turn 32 the day after the 2022 world championships and, if all goes well, he could add another rainbow jersey to his collection.

At this year’s Tour de France, Matthews not only won the stage to Mende, he also finished runner-up in two difficult stages.

In Longwy on day six, at the end of the longest stage in this year’s Tour (220km), the only rider better than Matthews was none other than two-time Tour champion Tadej Pogacar.

In stage 8 of the 2022 TDF, Matthews was second – behind Wout van Aert in Lausanne but ahead of Pogacar. (Photo: Zac Williams)

Two days later, in Lausanne, Matthews opened his sprint early on the uphill finale in Switzerland and another Tour stage win seemed his for the taking… until Wout van Aert spoiled the show for the Australian. In third place that day was Pogacar. The Australian crossed the line sandwiched between the riders in the green and yellow jerseys. It wasn’t a win but it was impressive nonetheless.


Training with an assumption of selection

Matthews thrives when the terrain is tough. Yes, he has a snappy sprint that has helped him score big results, but the ideal setting for him is one just like what we’ll see in Wollongong, which includes the climb over Mount Keira (early in the race) followed by 16 laps of the city circuit that includes the steep ascent of Mount Pleasant.

The regularity of that climb, added to the distance of the worlds road race, means that pure sprinters like Caleb Ewan – another rider who has been referenced as a possible starter – are going to find it tough to factor in the results.

Curiously, however, Michael Matthews has explained to RIDE Media that he’s had very little contact from AusCycling about the pending worlds in Australia.

Exactly when the Australian selection for the Wollongong worlds will be announced is something of a mystery. Still, many possible candidates for the team have been organising preparations based largely on assumptions of a possible call-up to the national team. It’s not an ideal scenario but that’s what Matthews and others have to work with and they are doing their best to make good of the situation.

AusCycling, we are starting to learn, works in mysterious ways. The last contact Matthews has had with the organisation was back in December 2021, but the rider remains upbeat about what’s yet to come from this season.

Despite the silence from his national team, Matthews has mapped out a training and race schedule that will ensure he maintains – and then builds – form through to that final Sunday in September.

Photo: Charly Lopez, via ASO

Michael Matthews is currently in Livigno as part of the #Wollongong2022 project he, his coach, and BikeExchange-Jayco team has mapped out. It’s a considerable investment – of time and money – to ensure he continues to keep the kind of condition that will allow him to take on the likes of van Aert, and his good friend Pogacar in what promises to be a thrilling finale to the world championships.

This Wednesday, for example, Matthews completed a rigorous five-hour training ride in the mountains of Italy and Switzerland. With the ever-present support of coach Brian Stephens, he is training with the aim of winning another world title. He covered the Bernina Pass in a loop that included roughly the same amount of climbing that will feature in the elite men’s road race on 25 September (±4,000m).

A day earlier, another long training ride took Matthews from Livigno to the Gavia Pass and back, again with plenty of climbing on the itinerary and always with the road race at the worlds in the back of his mind.

The competition schedule prior to the anticipated return to Australia will include the GP Plouay on 28 August, a 254km race Matthews won in 2020.

After that, the plan is to contest the two Canadian one-day WorldTour races, the GP Quebec (a 201km race with 2,976m of climbing on 9 September) followed by the GP Montréal (221km, 4,842m of climbing on 11 September).

Matthews has already won twice in Quebec (2018 and 2019), he also triumphed in Montréal in 2018, completing the Canadian WorldTour double. That was the year when Alejandro Valverde won the rainbow jersey but Matthews was overlooked by national selectors for the road race in Innsbruck, Austria, that favoured the climbers. (Note: he still scored a medal at the worlds in 2018 when his trade team at the time, Sunweb, finished second in the team time trial.)

The podium of the 2017 worlds in Bergen, Norway.

The races in Canada are a good test of form for anyone vying for the rainbow jersey and Matthews knows the circuits in Quebec and Montréal well. In 2022, they will again serve as a warm-up to what he expects will be a bigger rendezvous a fortnight later in Australia.

Once he’s finished his preparation phase for the world championships Matthews will make the journey to Wollongong with sufficient time to recover from jet lag while also having plenty of time to become familiar with the course and other members of the Australian team.

Nothing is being left to chance by the rider who has a proven record and the kind of form to win a race like the one in Wollongong. All he needs now is confirmation of his call-up to the national team.

Unfortunately, communication isn’t a strong point of AusCycling. The organisation might be doing a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure the 2022 world championships will be a success, but the media and riders alike are often kept in the dark when it comes to details of their planning.

Exactly who is responsible for the final selection, for example, is unclear. As for who will eventually get to race for the rainbow jersey as leader of the national team in a little over a month… well, that’s also unknown, for now.

The hype is slowly building. The roadworks are nearing completion. The worlds are coming to Wollongong… and while there are a lot of details missing, one thing is clear: in Michael Matthews, the Australian team has a rider who is capable of putting in a strong performance.


There is showcase of cycling coming to Australia. So, surely, now is the time for the national team selectors to finalise some details about the worlds and at least announce the rider selection so that they can prepare with an objective in mind, and so that Australian sport fans can start getting excited.

The racing action is only weeks away, and now is the time to refine the preparation and begin the team building that’s required for a competition like this.


– By Rob Arnold