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Matthews to make long-awaited Tour of Flanders debut in 2019

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Michael Matthews (Sunweb) wins Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal

Michael Matthews (Sunweb) wins Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Michael Matthews (Sunweb) wins Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal

Michael Matthews (Sunweb) wins Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Greg van Avermaet, Michael Matthews and Jasper Stuyven on the podium in Quebec

Greg van Avermaet, Michael Matthews and Jasper Stuyven on the podium in Quebec (Image credit: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)
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Michael Matthews (Sunweb) wins Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal

Michael Matthews (Sunweb) wins Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Michael matthews at Tre Valli Varesine

Michael matthews at Tre Valli Varesine (Image credit: Getty Images)

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) will finally make his Tour of Flanders debut in 2019, setting the Belgian Monument as the focal point of a spring campaign that will feature an almost-complete set of cobbled Classics.

Matthews finished second at the under-23 Tour of Flanders in 2010 but, curiously, has yet to tackle the pro race. Despite an appearance at Gent-Wevelgem as a neo-pro in 2011, his springs have largely revolved around Milan-San Remo and then the hillier Ardennes Classics, rather than the cobbles and bergs of northern Belgium.

However, 2017 saw a shift in direction, as the Australian rode Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem to test the waters, before lining up a fuller schedule of cobbles, including Flanders, for 2018. That was ultimately derailed by a shoulder injury suffered in a crash at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in late February, but Matthews will have his shot in 2019.

"I'm really interested in Flanders this year. I haven't done the pro one before. I was 2nd in the U23s, so I've got good memories. I know the pro event is totally different, but I'm really excited about it," Matthews told Cyclingnews in Calpe, Spain, where he's currently on a training camp with Sunweb.

"I've had a look at the course, which is a big step forward to know what I'm in for, but I'm actually just super excited to race it. I've been trying to race it for the last few years, but have never been able to with preparation for the Ardennes and the Tour of the Basque Country."

Matthews will still ride all three Ardennes classics – Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – in 2019, having finished third at Amstel in 2015 and fourth at Liège in 2017. However, the cobbled races have been identified as the races where he has the biggest chance of success.

"The Ardennes were always the priority, but we've looked into my abilities and the team actually reckons I should be better at the cobbled Classics," Matthews said.

"I really enjoy the Ardennes, but the team think I'm better suited to the cobbles. I just trust them in what they say. They've been amazing to me in the last two years, so I have massive trust in what they say."

Matthews will stop short of riding Paris-Roubaix for the first time, but will begin at the 'opening weekend' of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, before riding Milan-San Remo and then returning to Belgium for the E3-Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen, and, finally, the Tour of Flanders on April 7.

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.