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Matthews hopes to profit from Pogacar, Roglic in Milan-San Remo

PALMANOVA SPAIN JANUARY 26 Michael Matthews of Australia and Team BikeExchange Jayco competes during the 31st Challenge Ciclista Mallorca 2022 Trofeo Calvia a 1547km race from Peguera to Palmanova ChallengeMallorca on January 26 2022 in Palmanova Spain Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Michael Matthews in full flight early this season with Team BikeExchange-Jayco (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

After a career series of near misses in Milan-San Remo, Team BikeExchange-Jayco believe race strategies likely to be deployed by Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) on Saturday could well help their team leader Michael Matthews hit the jackpot at last on the Via Roma. 

It has been 10 years since Australia claimed a win in La Primavera, courtesy of Matthews' former teammate, the now retired Simon Gerrans, who followed on from another Australian win in 2011 by Matt Goss.

Since then Matthews has, by his own admission, had a “rollercoaster” experience in Milan-San Remo, with two third places, in 2015 and 2020, a sixth last year and a seventh in 2018 as his best performances.

 But Matt White, head team sports director, believes that both Roglič and Pogačar’s racing strategies on Saturday could provide considerable indirect benefits for his top rider.

“I think the big difference in this year's edition is the presence of two Slovenians, Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar,“ White said in a BikeExchange-Jayco press release on Thursday.

“So I expect a very aggressive San Remo, with a lot of pressure coming down to the Cipressa, more than normal, because for Pogačar it will be too late to wait for the Poggio.

“An aggressive San Remo is good for us also, because Michael doesn’t want to sprint with the pure sprinters and so a more selective finale is actually better for us.”

White confirmed that Team BikeExchange-Jayco's lineup for San Remo, which includes veteran lead-out man Luka Mezgec and new 2022 signing Lawson Craddock, will be exclusively supporting Matthews. White argued that the 31-year-old’s consistency over the years in San Remo justified the squad’s sole focus on their Australian sprinter.

Matthews himself recognised that his experience over the years in cycling’s first Monument of the season has been uneven but the race had not lost its appeal as a result. Nor did he feel that a recent fall in Strade Bianche would do damage to his prospects this weekend.

“If I think about the finish line on Via Roma in San Remo, a lot of memories over the years come to my mind, a few highs and a lot of lows. It’s been a rollercoaster race for me,” he said in the same press release.

“Milan-San Remo has always attracted me since I started cycling and now I have a new opportunity to get on the top step and I will do my best to be on that podium for the third time.

“I think I struggled a little bit through Tirreno-Adriatico after my crash in Strade Bianche, but to be honest the shape is much better than I thought, and I think I’ll be ready for Saturday.”

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.