In 2015 Michael Matthews has either won or placed on the podium at each race he has started with current form and results bolstering the Orica-GreenEdge rider's confidence ahead of a second Giro d'Italia appearance this month. Matthews enjoyed an impressive debut at the 2014 Giro as he wore the maglia rosa for six days and enjoyed stage six victory the pink leaders jersey.
In each of the three grand tours that Matthews has started, he as won at least one stage and worn the leaders jersey on two occasions. With recent podiums at both the De Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race, and stage wins at Paris-Nice and Tour of the Basque Country, Matthews looks good to continue his run at the Giro d'Italia which gets underway with a team time trial in San Lorenzo on May 9.
Cyclingnews spoke to the 24-year-old from his European base of Monaco ahead of the Giro as he puts the finishing touches to his preparation for the race.
Cyclingnews: What's the final week before the Giro d'Italia looking like for you?
Michael Matthews: The work is pretty much all done up to this point. It's just a few days of sprint training and a little bit of motorpacing and just the final 'one percenters' before the race starts really. I haven't checked out any of the stages yet but we go and do it Wednesday and Thursday with the team all together so we all know what we are in for.
CN: Have you targeted any specific stages at the Giro for success?
MM: Stage four is my biggest target for the moment. It's the one that probably suits me the best in the first week. That's the one I am aiming for but the stages before that also suit me really well but it will depend on what the team wants to do and who we ride for, what the strategy is.
CN: How is your confidence level going into the Giro this year compared to last year?
MM: My confidence has probably doubled from last year going into the Giro, especially as I know what I am in for at the Giro now and the start of the season that I've had has almost gone 100% to plan, other than a few of the third places. We've basically ticked all the boxes leading into the Giro like we planned compared to last year when we didn't tick so many boxes so my confidence has definitely doubled this year knowing what I know from last year and the experiences I had like the stage win in the pink jersey. It's definitely a confidence booster going into the 2015 Giro.
CN: With either a stage win or podium at every race you've started this season, what's been behind this early season success?
MM: It's been the more relaxed build up and staying in Europe, not going home to the heat in Australia and really being able to shut down in Europe in the winter and let my body really relax after such an intense season with lots of ups and downs.
I think the year I had last year made me a lot stronger then having the off season the way that I did it and the build up the way we did was pretty much perfect for me and the way that I'll go about it in the next couple of seasons hopefully.
CN: Did starting your season later than previous years make you hungrier for results?
MM: Watching the other guys racing was added motivation to train harder and once I arrived at Paris-Nice I knew I was ready to go there and make a result straight away. I wasn't going there to race through Paris-Nice and see how it turned out. I was really there hunting for results straight away.
It's always difficult to know how you're going for the first race but I knew I had prepared for 110% for my abilities going into that first race and I just had a lot of confidence in myself and the people around me who put me in the position that I was in for Paris-Nice so that was the best part of it.
CN: What would constitute a successful Giro d'Italia for you?
MM: The pink jersey would be nice again for at least a few days but I am more focused on stage wins. It was nice to have the jersey last year but stage wins are probably more key this year.
CN: Do you have a number of stage wins in mind you are chasing?
MM: It's hard to really put a number on how many you want to win because we are not really sure who we are going to ride for though the Giro so I'll start with one stage win and go from there.
CN: With Simon Gerrans, Simon Clarke and yourself, the team looks to be in a strong position to be challenging to stage wins and the pink jersey in the first week again…
MM: The plan is to win the team time trial and try and do what we did last year. We did really well winning the team time trial last year the way we did it with the team we had and to hold the jersey for the seven days plus a win in the jersey so I think it's going to be hard to match it but with the form I have leading into the Giro this year, and the confidence that I have, I think we can achieve better results this year.
CN: Who do you see as your main rivals for stage wins?
MM: Philippe Gilbert (BMC) is obviously targeting some stages in the first week because they suit him quite well with the uphill finishers and I'll probably target those stages as well. We'll see how it goes…
CN: Are you aiming to finish the Giro in Milan?
MM: It's always the aim to finish the full three weeks but you have to see how much it is taking out of you because the Giro is such a tough stage race. It's the toughest stage race in the world to finish, and for a rider like me that's not a mountain goat like the other little climbers, it's quite a difficult one to finish. I'll do my best to get as far as possible and see how it goes.
CN: Is the points jersey an aim for you or is it secondary to stage wins?
MM: I guess I'll focus on stage wins before the jersey and if I end up with a lot of points and in the jersey then I'll start aiming for that. With the team we have, it's quite a multi-tasking team with a lot of guys who can go for stage wins so I'll go for as many stages as possible then from there see about the points jersey.
CN: Do you gain added motivation from the fact that a fellow Australian in Richie Porte is entering the Giro is top form?
MM: Richie and I train a lot to together and it's quite exciting to see his season fold out the way it has. We are also friends and always pushing each other in training to try and make each other ride harder and the way he's riding at the moment is quite amazing to see. It makes me work harder and train harder to try and match the same results as Richie at the moment. He's absolutely flying…
I trained with Richie a few days ago and he's as skinny as I've ever seen him and with more power than I've seen so he's definitely going to be a real threat to the guys like Contador in this Giro with the way he's performing. At the races leading into the Giro, he's won almost thing he's started so he's definitely going to be a real contender for the top three and hopefully the top of the podium.
CN: Finally, how daunting is the 59.2km stage 14 time trial at the moment?
MM: That's just one to get through hopefully. For the kind of rider like myself, it's going to be quite difficult to get through as I'll be doing so much in the first week to try and get as many wins as possible. It will be about getting as aero as possible and try and get through the time cut.