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Picking up the pieces: How Michael Matthews bounced back

Michael Matthews’ 2018 season can be seen as a jigsaw puzzle. Starting out, it appeared all the pieces were ready to be slotted into place. Instead, they all ended up on the floor. If at first he struggled to make sense of the mess, by the end of the season he had patched things back up pretty neatly, and had even picked up some new pieces that will only enhance the bigger picture.

The 2017 season had been the strongest of the Australian’s career to date, with two stage wins and the green jersey at the Tour de France followed by a world title in the team time trial. As such, he was convinced “it was all going to happen” in 2018.

Tom Stamsnijder and Matthews backstage at the Team Sunweb presentation in Berlin (Bettini)

The mental aspect is an important one. That the summer, Matthews decided to start seeing a sports psychologist – “someone who could help me keep my head straight and make sure I didn’t lose that belief in myself”.

Matthews and a teammate celebrate his win at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal

‘I wasn’t respected at Orica’

Whether directly or indirectly, Matthews’ time with his psychologist perhaps fed into another aspect of his late-season improvement: his leadership quality. It might seem odd at first that someone whose nickname is ‘bling’ might lack confidence, but that has largely been the case when it has come to standing up and speaking in front of his teammates.

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