Racing Tour Down Under to start the season
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) burst onto the international cycling scene in 2010 winning the U23 world championships road race. Matthews signed a two-year deal with Rabobank from the 2011 season and started with a bang claiming Stage 3 of the Tour Down Under. While his stint with the Dutch team had its highlights, Matthews moved across to Orica-GreenEdge at the end of 2012 and hasn’t looked back since with a debut Tour de France on the cards for 2014.
The man known as ‘Bling,’ will approach the 2014 season hoping to peak at various points which includes participation in the Tour. "My coach, Brian Stephens, and I divided the season in three parts, so during the first one I would like to be well prepared for Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo and leading up to Amstel Gold Race," Matthews told Cyclingnews.
"For the second part, the Tour is the main goal and the Classics in August and Worlds is the focus in the third part."
Having claimed two stage wins at the Vuelta a España last year and a stint in the green jersey, Matthews was buoyed by his success in his grand tour debut. "It definitely helped me to get my confidence back after a really bad two years, but I will work harder and hope this is just the beginning," he said.
Matthews told Cyclingnews that he hoping this year’s Tour will be the first of many more. "Racing the Tour is like a dream come true. I was waiting for this opportunity. For a sprinter the biggest goals are the sprint stages and of course the green jersey," he said.
Having seen teammate Simon Gerrans snare the Australian road race title on Sunday, Matthews will once again be by Gerrans’ side to help out as GreenEdge chase overall victory at the Tour Down Under. "I am taking the race as training and my main goal is to help the team to win GC with Simon Gerrans. If there is a chance for me at some stage I will do my best but it’s not the priority now," he said.
Following on from the first WorldTour race of the year, Matthews will head back to Europe and prepare for the spring racing. "My race program consists of Mallorca Challenge, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, Amstel Gold Race, Bayern Rundfahrt, Critérium du Dauphiné and then the Tour. I am trying this year to be more consistent with my racing but it depends on the team goals and their plan too."
Of the Monuments, Milan-San Remo is one Matthews would love to claim victory in and is looking for the win in what will be only his second appearance. "It is a very special and particular race, I love the country and racing in Italy and it’s definitely my career goal, I would like to have it on my palmares, but there are lots of races which are really interesting and motivating as the Tour or Worlds."
While Matthews can be classified as a sprinter and can also climb when needed, Bling isn’t trying to be anyone else on the bike. "I don’t want to copy somebody else, I would like to be rather my own type of a rider. And that is definitely not a flat sprint stages rider," he said.
Success at GreenEdge
Monaco is well acquainted with Australian cyclists and it is the principality where Matthews is based during the European season with his girlfriend. "Life on and off the bike there is really good, it’s on a high quality level, have all my support there such as massages physio and motor pacing. I am really happy that I made the decision."
One Australian who has well and truly made Monaco his home is Baden Cooke who was a teammate with Matthews last year is someone who he credits with helping him out on the bike. "He taught me the basics of racing which you’re forgetting sometimes," he said.
"Focusing on details in training and showing me a lot of training moves from the times he was in green jersey. He definitely helped me to get two grand tour wins."
Matthews credits the whole GreenEdge team and the friendly atmosphere for helping him get back to his best and 2014 is shaping up for another big year. "As a result there are my successes this year, it’s really nice because we are really good friends and the team spirit is just awesome."