Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) started his season later than most but he’s been making up for lost time with an emphatic performance thus far at Paris-Nice. Matthews surprised many with by beating Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) in the prologue and has kept a firm grip on the yellow jersey since then, perhaps helped somewhat by the cancelled stage 3.
The Australian holds a slim lead in the general classification going into the final two stages but has already said that he is going all in for overall victory, which would be his first ever general classification win. Speaking to Cyclingnews a few days before Matthews made his season debut, Orica-GreenEdge team manager Shayne Bannan said that his young star was ahead of where he was at this point last year – his best season to date.
Bannan’s expectations proved to be right and, at 25 years of age and entering his sixth season as a professional, Matthews appears to be entering his prime as a rider. Bannan believes that we can expect more from Matthews in 2016. “I think that we will see much of the same that he did last year but a little bit better,” he told Cyclingnews at last week’s Track World Championships, where he was a guest of the Australian team.
“Michael’s progression has been amazing. He had a real breakthrough season last year with placings in Milan-San Remo and Amstel and also winning several stages all over the place. He’s still on a progressive pathway. I think that he is still on a progressive pathway this year and I think that you’ll see a percentage improvement again this year. He should be very proud of himself with his professionalism and the way that he manages himself. It’s nice to watch.”
Like last year, Matthews is using Paris-Nice as a building block for his bigger goal of Milan-San Remo. He took the same approach to La Primavera last season and he was rewarded with a third place behind John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff. Whatever the expectations that Matthews and the team put on him going into the race this year, the external expectations will be very high.
For Bannan, the result is not the primary focus for the Italian race. “There are a lot of very good riders going for the Milan-San Remo win and it is all about the processes,” said Bannan. “He’s had a really good preparation and, hopefully, Paris-Nice goes well for him and then what happens on the day could be anything. I do know that Michael and the guys will be doing everything they can to put him on the podium.”
The evolution of Velon
Cyclingnews also spoke to Bannan briefly about the Velon enterprise, which his team, along with 10 other WorldTour outfits, belongs too. Velon was set up in 2014 in the hope of making cycling more sustainable. They recently signed a 10-year deal with the company Infront Sport & Media regarding the capture and distribution of rider data during races.
Velon have made other steps by securing partnerships with several of the big races on the calendar. However, Bannan and his fellow Velon members have been coy on the finer details and how exactly partnerships such as the one with Infront will achieve what they have set out to do. One thing is for sure that this is a long-term project.
“It could take two years, it could take five years, it could take eight years. Whatever it takes we will do it,” Bannan said. “I think the first thing that springs to mind is that you have 11 teams that are co-operating with each other. They want to work together to develop a better business model for the sport, which means sustainability for the teams and the riders. That is the ultimate goal.
“It’s an evolution. First of all, it is about having 11 teams unite. Step 2 is all about getting arrangements and agreements with organisations such as in front and building the platform for the future. It’s a step by step thing. You’ll understand it as and when it happens.”