Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) says that he has hopes of becoming a rider with a skillset as varied as Greg Van Avermaet. The problem, the Australian says, is unlearning some of what he has been trained to do in the last few years.
Matthews will go up against Van Avermaet for victory on Sunday in the new-look Amstel Gold Race. The course has been altered by the removal the final Cauberg ascent, which makes a sprint finish more likely, but Matthews – who finished third in 2015 – has taken note of how things have played out in the build-up to the Ardennes.
"He is definitely someone to keep an eye on. The way he rides, he can win anywhere," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "Today, riders fight to be allowed to go with him when he goes on the attack. But above all: every rider wants to be as versatile as Van Avermaet, me too. I would like to be as offensive as him. The problem is that I learned at my previous team, Orica, to sit and wait for the sprint. I'm doing my best to change that. You saw it last week: all the Classics have been attacking races."
Matthews learned his lesson at Brabantse Pijl that it is not necessarily best to wait for the sprint after he was left behind when the big names went and could only manage to sprint for 11th in the bunch behind. He is keen to make sure he won't be burned twice in the same week.
"Everything is possible. It will be a hard race and if a few of the big guys attack, this time I will not wait," he said. "I learned that on Wednesday. We weren't able to take them back, and I lost to the escapees. That won't happen Sunday."
The Amstel Gold Race has been a big goal for Matthews in the opening half of the season over the past few seasons. It's a race that he enjoys, but it also holds a special place in his heart after meeting his future wife at the race several years ago. In a video produced by the Sunweb team, Matthews discussed a few of his thoughts on the one-day race.
"It's a pretty special time, but it's also quite nervous. It all goes really fast. You're really nervous when you race and then it's finished. You need to try and enjoy every minute of it because it's a special time being in all these Classics," he said.
"The hardest part is trying to stay together on these small roads with all the climbing and descending. It's really like a rollercoaster this race, but when your teammates are committed to you like they have been to me so far this season it definitely gives you a lot of confidence."
Watch the video below for the thoughts of other members of the Sunweb team ahead of the Amstel Gold Race, including Women's WorldTour leader Coryn Rivera.
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