Bannan backs young Australian to do the job for Rabobank
Rabobank neo pro Michael Matthews is perhaps the biggest surprise inclusion of all Australian starters for Milan-San Remo; he'll be one of 12 aiming to continue the stellar start the nation has experienced so far in season 2011.
Former mentor while the Canberra native was at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Shayne Bannan, said that while it was important not to get too carried away by expectations, the young sprinter's inclusion could only be viewed as a positive.
"It will certainly be a great experience for him – there's no question," the former AIS head coach and National Performance Director told Cyclingnews from Rome.
"Given the fact that he's only in his third month as a professional, it's really a great result and I think the team is putting a lot of faith in him in exposing him to these sorts of races early in his career. It's good experience for later on.
"I'm not necessarily convinced that the motive is for him to win it – they've got Oscar Freire there. I think he'll be learning as much as possible."
Rabobank will take on Milan-San Remo with a team comprising three-time winner Freire, Matthews plus Lars Boom, Rick Flens, Sebastiaan Langeveld, Maarten Tjallingii, Bram Tankink and Maarten Wijnants.
"Michael is a very talented individual, he's really motivated and he's had a really good preparation coming into this year," said Bannan. "But I think we should also be cautious not to put too much pressure on him, too early, in his career.
"It's unknown territory, isn't it? He would never have raced over that distance before. He's never raced Milan-San Remo before, he's only quite young. Then again, he's really surprised us in the past."
At the Santos Tour Down Under in January, Rabobank director sportif Adri Van Houwelingen suggested to Cyclingnews that the under 23 road race world champion could find his schedule significantly changed following his dream start in his debut World Tour event.
It was originally planned that the 20-year-old race in smaller European races but there's is nothing small about La Classicissima – at 298km it's the longest one day race on the World Tour calendar.
"He [Matthews] surprised the whole world including our team because it was his first World Tour race – he wins one stage and then beaten by centimetres in another and fourth overall," a pleased Van Houwelingen told Cyclingnews. "It's a big result for him and also for the team."
Matthews got his second win of the year when he took out the Vuelta a Murcia's opening stage, beating Team Sky's Russell Downing and Davide Appollonio.
Bannan explained to Cyclingnews that while under his tutelage at the AIS, there were two traits in particular that stood out in the young charge.
"One, he has amazing physiology," he said. "Two, sometimes you can have that amazing physiology and not have the total package in respect to commitment but no, he has that.
"He certainly rates himself, but he rates himself in a good way – he's not an egotistical person by any means. He really has a lot of self-confidence and self belief. For a young person that's pretty important.
"But like anything there are a lot of areas where he needs to gain experience. It's pretty hard being the total package at 20 years of age."
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