Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) started his season with a bang by taking the prologue and race lead in Paris-Nice. The Australian beat Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) to kick-start his campaign to win Milan-San Remo later this month. Defending champion Richie Porte (BMC Racing) was a distant 11th.
The Italian one-day race is one of Matthews' main aims in the first half of the year and over a 6.1 kilometre course in Paris-Nice he showed why he is one of the most talented riders in the world.
"He was top 10 in the prologue last year so we always thought that he would feature in today's racing," his team boss, Matt White, told Cyclingnews.
"I knew he would be competitive but to beat some of the guys there who are racing is really impressive and it's certainly a nice way for him to start the season."
Matthews finished a second clear of Dumoulin, with Patrick Bevin (Cannondale) in third. The win puts Matthews in the leader's jersey and White said that the squad would assess their position as race leaders with each passing day.
"I think that we'll take it day by day. There are certainly stronger riders in there when it comes to competing for the overall GC but Paris-Nice is a prestigious race and it carries a prestigious jersey. Knowing that and what Michael and the team are like, they'll want to respect that and do every justice."
Matthews is running the same race and training template as last season and although he has not raced since last Autumn, White added that the rider is more than just a bunch sprinter. With Milan-San Remo on the horizon Matthews and his team couldn't have asked for a better start.
"He's running the same programme as last year in terms of San Remo preparation. Michael isn't your typical sort of sprinter too, and you don't beat guys like he did today by just being a pure sprinter. He's in good shape and this win should set him up nicely for a solid week of racing."
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