The 24-year-old winner of multiple Grand Tour stages will lead an Orica-GreenEdge team that also includes Simon Clarke, Luke Durbridge, Mathew Hayman, Michael Hepburn, Daryl Impey, Jens Mouris and Simon Yates.
“We are definitely aiming for the podium here with Michael Matthews,” said Orica-GreenEdge sport director Matt White. “He has had very good preparation over the last couple of months and he has shown the fruits of his preparation at Paris-Nice, his first race of the year.
“He has also done the race a couple of times before now, once a few years ago and once last year, where the weather conditions didn’t suit him much, but it’s definitely a race that suits Michael’s characteristics.”
Matthews' best result in his previous two attempts at the race came last year when he finished 78th, but his form so far this year puts him in with a good chance in the Monument that often favours the sprinters.
White said that despite the race's distance, he expects a sprint finish on Sunday. But the size of the group that contests the win depends on what the weather dishes out. Current forecasts call for rain.
“It’s the longest race on the calendar, and when you include neutral kilometres it's 300km, so it’s a long day in the office,” White said. “It should be a sprint. I don’t know how reduced it will be. It could be a 100-up sprint or it could be 30 to 40. It’s really weather dependent.
“I think if we get a wet day or finale it should be a smaller group, but if we get dry, nice conditions it could potentially be a big group.”
Orica won the race in 2012 with Simon Gerrans, who broke his collarbone earlier this year and then fractured his elbow when he returned for Starde Biacnhe, but White believes the roster set up around Matthews can shepherd him to the finale with a chance for the podium.
Veteran Classics man Hayman will captain the team on the road, while Matthews will also benefit from the experience of 2014 Tour of Alberta winner Daryl Impey, who White believes will provide invaluable guidance in the latter stages of the race.
“The other seven riders are all there in support of Michael over various sections of the day,” White said. “Some guys have got a role to look after him early in the day, some are looking after him in the final but everyone has a very important role to play on Sunday.”
Orica-Greenedge for Milan-San Remo: Simon Clarke, Luke Durbridge, Mathew Hayman, Michael Hepburn, Daryl Impey, Michael Matthews, Jens Mouris, Simon Yates.
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