On a stunning day for Sunweb at the World Championships in Bergen, Michael Matthews admitted that the women's surprise win in the TTT had inspired the men's squad to repeat the feat in their event several hours later.
Both the men's and women's teams came into the opening weekend at the Worlds as underdogs but left their respective podiums with gold in each race. It marked the first time since the team time trial debut in 2012 that BMC, QuickStep nor Boels and Canyon came away with the spoils.
In the men's race, Matthews and his teammates left it late but usurped BMC Racing in the final kilometres to take the gold medal.
"We were out on our recovery ride this morning and we were all joking around and having fun," Matthews recalled when stopping to talk to Cyclingnews at the finish.
"We had no pressure on us because we weren't the favourites to win and we just wanted to go out, give it everything and then see what we could get out of it. Later we were having our pre-race lunch and we could see the women were going to win and then the stress started. We thought that if they could win then we could win. Everyone went quiet, there were no more jokes anymore and we focused from then on."
Sunweb's male squad were the only team to complete the demanding 1.4km climb during the 42.5km course with their full quota of six riders. BMC and Team Sky – who rounded out the podium both burnt matches before and on the climb itself, and both teams lost vital leads to Sunweb on the technical section before the finish. They prized gold from BMC Racing by seconds, and with that became the first team outside of the QuickStep/BMC pairing to win the race since its inception in 2012.
"I don't think there was one real strategy. We just went full on from start to finish. We tried to do that from the beginning and we just wanted to keep the momentum. There was no real holding back or going steady. We just went as hard as we could and had nothing left at the finish."
Few had Sunweb as a favourite before the men's race. QuickStep, Sky, and BMC were the first drafts with the general consensus that Sunweb would have to nullify their best asset in Tom Dumoulin in order keep their shape over the rolling course.
"It's about working with the horsepower that we have in the team," Matthews said with gold around his neck.
"So if someone doesn't have as much power then they just do shorter turn but just as fast as the faster guys. Everyone knew their strengths and we did the recon over the last two days. We rode to the best of our abilities. We used everything we had in the race to win."
Dumoulin will now turn his attention to Wednesday's individual time trial where he is the favourite to win. Meanwhile, Matthews will swap trade kit of a national ensemble as he targets the men's road race on Sunday. Having seen the stars align for Sunweb in such dramatic fashion on the opening day of the Worlds it's not impossible to imagine the teaming winning a further two world titles.
"That's the dream. Tonight we'll just enjoy this gold medal. Then Tom will get ready for his time trial and I'll prepare for Sunday," Matthews said.
No doubt the team will also be watching the women's road race and time trial. They have strong candidates in both races too.
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