U-23 world champion hopes to be part of the elite roster this year
An Under-23 World Champion last year in Geelong, on his home soil, Australian talent Michael Matthews (Rabobank) expects to be a part of the elite race in Denmark in two weeks.
"We have a very strong team for the World Championship this year and it will be hard to make it," the 21-year-old sprinter admitted in a video interview with Cyclingnews. "But I think the team we will put on the start line will be very hard to beat."
Cycling Australia might unveil its final selection for the Worlds in the coming hours, after the traditional deadline of the Vuelta a Espana's end.
The previously announced long list included 14 riders for nine places. Understandably, the 2008 World Champion and Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans, hasn't been added, given the relatively flat parcours. Most of the riders named are sprinters: alongside Matthews, there is Simon Clarke, Baden Cooke, Simon Gerrans, Matt Goss, Adam Hansen, Heinrich Haussler, Matthew Hayman, Leigh Howard, Robbie McEwen, Stuart O’Grady, Mark Renshaw, Sutherland and CJ Sutton.
If he does get a seat in the squad, Matthews hopes to play a role in the finish: "I would like to be there in the last five kilometers to help or do the sprint, if I do make the team I would like to be there at the finish to see what I can do."
It is expected that Cycling Australia will name Matt Goss (HTC), the Milan-San Remo winner earlier this year, as the leader of the team for a course which is expected to be a tough-man's field sprint.
For his part, Matthews has shown some good results for his first season in WorldTour, winning one stage at the Tour Down Under, one at the Tour of Murcia and the Rund um Köln. Early this month he came sixth in the GP Jef Scherens, in Belgium.
Those performances could break the 'curse of the World Champion', a post-championship drought which historically seemed to be true for the Under-23 winners, too.
"Cadel [Evans] broke the curse from the Elite world title last year and [Thor] Hushovd broke it even more this year," the Rabobank rider said. "So I think it's possible to break the curse of the Under-23 title as well."
Since 1996 winners such as Giuliano Figueras, Leonardo Giordani, Dmytro Grabovskyy, Gerald Ciolek, seem to have struggled to confirm the high expectation come after their victory. But the Under-23 Worlds palmarès also includes some successful riders like Ivan Basso (1998).
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