To say that I'm excited about lining up in my first Giro d'Italia would be an understatement. I love Italy as a country: the culture, the food, the landscape and I can't wait to race a three-week tour in such a beautiful place. And I am feeling good after a final training period tailored particularly for this Grand Tour. It's an honour for me to be part of this amazing and famous race with this team.
This isn't my first Grand Tour and that aspect helps when it comes to defining expectations. I think the hardest thing about anyone's first time in a Grand Tour — and mine was the Vuelta a España last year — is that you don't know what to expect. Now I am going in with more confidence, and knowledge of how my body adapts to a three-week race. Still, the Giro is a special race which you can't compare to Vuelta.
In terms of my racing schedule this year, I always thought that Giro would be really good preparation for the Tour de France, so when the boss Matt White asked me if I want to ride the Giro, I was more than happy. It was not on my schedule originally, but I didn't need to change too much around in order to focus.
As for my general form, I got some rest after Amstel in Austria, and then I started to train again for Giro. I also did some particular TT training sessions in order to get ready for the TTT in Ireland. My coach Brian Stephens also prepared a training program which was focused on the stages which suit me at Giro. I feel good and ready for the next challenge.
The next few days are going to be filled with questions asking me which stages I'm going to target. To be honest I think that there are few stages which I can aim at and suit me. This year I am focusing more on stages with complicated and harder finishes than just pure sprint stages. On the other hand, it will be great to gain more experience in flat stages against the likes of [Marcel] Kittel and I think I can be up there in those stages, too. Racing in Italy is always special and different and as I said, this will be great part of preparation for the TDF and other races during this year.
The team coming to Giro is full of TT specialists, which is why we're going in as favourites to win in Belfast. The pink jersey is our main goal.
Luckily a lot of these guys double as key links in the lead-out train, so it's perfect for me. We have lots of strong guys that are also experienced in the leadouts, like Svein Tuft and Brett Lancaster. I'm also happy to have Mitch Docker who raced with me in the Vuelta last year. We worked perfectly together. I can't wait to race with super selection of boys during this year's Giro.
How far can I go in this year's Giro is a huge question but one I can't really answer just yet. It's a three week race, a real war of attrition and one that has to be respected. I've never ridden the Giro before, so I can't tell exactly how physically and mentally hard this race is. I would love to finish it, but you never know how you will feel or what might happen. Either way, I'm going to give it my all.
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Michael Matthews' 2014 Giro d'Italia Blog
Follow Australia's hottest sprint talent Michael Matthews as he embarks on his debut in the 2014 Giro d'Italia. The Orica-GreenEdge rider will be writing a blow-by-blow account on his race for Cyclingnews.