Matthews shows strong form with repeat win in Rioja

A repeat victory for Michael Matthews on Sunday in the Vuelta a la Rioja has confirmed the Orica-GreenEdge star has kept his good early season form going into the Ardennes Classics, where he says the Amstel Gold Race is his big objective.

Already a winner in La Rioja back in 2014, Matthews win in the Spanish race is his third victory of the season following his double set of stages in Paris-Nice as well as the points jersey in the French stage race. But rather than return to País Vasco on Monday, where he took a stage win and led the race for two days last year, Matthews' next target will be the hilly Belgian and Dutch Classics.

Speaking to Cyclingnews before the start of the GP Miguel Indurain on Saturday, Michaels said "the form's as good as I wanted it to be at the moment, we've still got a few weeks leading into Amstel, and these two races in Spain [La Rioja and Indurain - Ed.] are good for where I’m at right now.

"Then it's on to Brabantjse Pijl" - where he was second last year - "then Amstel" - where he was third - "and Fleche Wallonne." He will not be doing Liege-Bastogne-Liege, although he says he likes the race when he rode it in his rookie year as a pro, but says it "is important just to focus on Amstel for now."

"I'm going into the Ardennes Classics without doing País Vasco, so that's less race days than last year," he observed, "but that's just sort of the way it worked out.

"It's a long season, the Olympics and the World Championships are there and the World's is right at the end of the year" - it has been delayed to cut down on the risks of excessively hot weather in Qatar - "so you've got to save yourself."

After Amstel and Fleche, rather than doing the Giro d'Italia like in 2015, Matthews will rest up before heading to the Tour de Suisse and then the Tour de France.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

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.