It might come across as a rather bold claim given the calibre of the opposition at this year’s World Championships, not to mention the balanced course that favours a number of riding styles – but there’s no doubt that Michael Matthews is among the main contenders for the rainbow jersey.
The 24-year-old, who was recently a winner of a stage in the Tour of Alberta, and claimed second in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, has an entire Australian team dedicated to his cause for Sunday’s men’s race.
“The form is really good and I came up really well after Alberta and I had really good form in Quebec and Montreal. I’ve been here ever since training. I’ve a few little bits of preparation to do before the road race next Sunday,” he told Cyclingnews.
“’[Winning] it’s definitely possible. I have the form to do it and I have the team to support me. I have to have a bit of luck on my side but hopefully the preparation and the dream comes together.”
Matthews’ strengths lie in the fact that he can sprint, he’s a moderate climber on the shorter rises and even after 250 kilometres of racing he can still be competitive. He’s also Australia’s best hope for a medal in the elite men’s race, as Simon Gerrans is still struggling to show the form that netted him a medal last year. The problem for Matthews might just be that there are a number of riders in the race who also fit his mould, with Peter Sagan, Tom Boonen and John Degenkolb, to name but a few.
On Sunday Matthews was part of the Orica GreenEdge team that finished fourth in the team time trial and he acknowledged that his mental preparation for Sunday began as soon as the TTT ended. After all, Sunday’s elite men’s race has been the main focal point of his entire season.
“It’s a totally different headspace. The TTT was all about power the whole time and the road race is more about conserving energy as much as possible and then giving it all in the last few laps. I have the form to do that and I’ll take that confidence with me into Sunday.”
Australia’s racing nous will be crucial on Sunday. The course is measured, balanced and it could end in a bunch gallop of 40 or a late solo attack, such is the nature of the parcours. A host of teams will be trying to make the race as aggressive as possible, especially if they don’t have a sprinter, so Australia’s tactic could well be dictated by a certain degree of containment. As ever, numbers in the finale will be all-important.
“We have maybe four guys who could be there for me in the final. It’s a really demanding course and it can depend on who works where in terms of trying to keep the race together as much as possible.”
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