Team Sunweb has confirmed Michael Matthews will make his 2018 season debut Saturday at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Australian has only ridden the opening race of the classics season once before in 2013 when he recorded a DNF.
In 2018, Matthews is focused on a full classics campaign from the cobbles through to Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad though is Matthews' first race since the Tour of Guangxi in October last year and not his biggest goal of the autumn. However, he enters the race off the back of a training camp and has the backing of the team for a result. Søren Kragh Andersen and Edward Theuns also provide firepower for Sunweb in the final as the team chases its first win of the 2018 season.
"We want to ride aggressively at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and show ourselves in the break of the day," coach Arthur van Dongen said. "Our goal is to have Edward, Michael and Søren positioned well going into the final. For Michael, Omloop will be his first race of the season following a very good training block with several team training camps, including one at altitude."
The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad finale has been adjusted from 2018 with the addition of the Muur van Geraardsbergen 15.8km from the finish and the Bosberg 12km from the line. Both climbs ensuring the finale is now identical to that of the Tour of Flanders. With the changes, van Dongen expects the race to play out differently compared to previous editions but is confident of the team's ability to deliver a result.
"With a few additions to the final we expect the race to be harder and aim to play a role with these three puncheurs," he added.
"We have a really strong team to support our ambitions with Jai, Tom, Martijn and road captain Roy fresh out of other races in a good shape to help us achieve our goal."
Australian neo-pro Jai Hindley lines out for his first one-day race for Sunweb after making his debut last week at the Volta ao Algarve. The team is completed by the trio of Roy Curvers, Tom Stamsnijder, and Martijn Tusveld who all raced the Tour of Oman last week.
Team Sunweb for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Søren Kragh Andersen, Roy Curvers, Jai Hindley, Michael Matthews, Tom Stamsnijder, Edward Theuns, and Martijn Tusveld.