Michael Matthews believes that luck will be the biggest factor in deciding who gets to wear the rainbow jersey at the end of Sunday's men's road race at the World Championships. Matthews, who claimed silver at last year's race in Richmond, will head up the Australian team in Doha, while up-and-coming sprinter Caleb Ewan is a secondary option.
A long year and the desert heat of Doha will have big parts to play in the 260-kilometre race, says Matthews. "It's hard to say really what is going to happen, but it will be a race of attrition," he told Cyclingnews.
"It's been hard to really judge your form to come up at the right time because you're not sacrificing any races through the year either. These World Championships are such a lottery. If you're not drinking enough or you do something a little bit wrong in the race then it could be totally finished. I've had to focus on other races through the year, and then come here with whatever legs I have left from the season."
Matthews has been there or thereabouts in recent months with top-five finishes at the RideLondon Classic, Bretagne Classic, and the GPs Quebec and Montreal. However, he struggled in the flatter sprints of the Eneco Tour, and he knows that he will be up against it to replicate what he did in 2015.
"I didn't quite have the results that I was looking for going into the World Championships this year and also the course doesn't suit me down to the bone like it did in Richmond," Matthews said. "Obviously, it would be incredible [to win], but I think it's too long away to say that. I just want to try and use what I have and see what comes out of it."
Attrition is definitely a word that could be used to describe this season with many struggling to hold their form at this stage of the year. Matthews had a slightly later start to the year in March at Paris-Nice and competed in just 55 race days ahead of Sunday. The Australian, however, is still feeling the fatigue of continuing his racing calendar into October.
"It doesn't feel like I've had that many race days. But, when you're not racing it doesn't mean that you're not training as hard as the guys who are racing it just means that you're preparing for goals. It has been really long. I can even feel myself right now being quite tired," he explained.
"[I didn't get] quite what I wanted out of the year through a few mistakes and misfortune. It wasn't what I was training so hard for. I expected more out of myself this season, but I guess I should be happy with the stage win at the Tour, and the two stage wins in Paris-Nice, and the green jersey, I think those would be the highlights this year."
Moving on to Team Sunweb
The World Championships will not be the end of Matthews' season, and he will stick around in the Middle East for the Abu Dhabi Tour next week. The four-day race will be his last one in the colours of Orica-BikeExchange as he is set to ride for Team Sunweb (formerly Giant-Alpecin) in 2017. Matthews has been with the Australian outfit since 2013.
"It's been a really good time in Orica-BikeExchange for the last four years. It's going to be a little bit hard to leave but it's also going to be exciting for the next three years with Giant-Alpecin," he told Cyclingnews. "With the riders that they have, and had, in their line-up, the way that they go about it to get the best out of the rider is what I'm most looking forward to and how professional they are in everything that they do.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back onto the Giant bike; I was riding them back when I was at Rabobank a few years ago. The team really seems motivated about getting the best out of me. That's all I can really ask for, and it seems a little bit surreal about how motivated they are and excited that I'm coming to the team. It makes me even more excited."
Matthews and the team are yet to sit down and plan out his programme for the forthcoming season, but he expects only a few alterations to his current schedule. "I think it will be more or less the same as this year. We might throw a few spin balls in there every so often, but I guess we'll see after the finish of this season," he said.