Michael Matthews (Australia) returns to action on Sunday looking to improve on his already impressive record in the World Championships. In order to do that, it's likely that he will need to defeat reigning champion Peter Sagan.
The Australian has finished fourth and second in the last two editions of the men's race and last weekend picked up a rainbow jersey as part of Sunweb's team time trial squad.
While the 267.5km road race is an entirely different proposition to the team test that Matthews faced on the opening weekend of the championships, there is little doubt over his form. Since winning the green jersey at the Tour de France, he has finished no lower than eighth in the four one-day races he has completed. The rolling course around Bergen also suits him, and having come to Norway in May to preview the route, he has more knowledge of its intricacies than most.
Unlike in 2015, when Matthews fought for the leadership of the Australian team with Simon Gerrans, he comes into Sunday's race well aware that all of the team is united behind.
"It's really nice to be the only leader of your team. It makes it a lot easier for the guys working for you in terms of what the plan is in the race," he told Cyclingnews earlier in the week.
"When you have two leaders then it splits the team down the middle and you then have two teams of four and a half instead of a team of nine. I think it brings big confidence to me that Australia thinks that I can deliver the result and hopefully I can step up on the day and finish it off."
Matthews will have to get past Sagan if he hopes to pull off Australia's first elite men's win in the road race since Cadel Evans in 2009. The reigning champion has been an elusive target for Matthews in the last two championships, skipping away from him in Richmond in 2015 and then showing him a clean pair of heels 12 months later.
Matthews won the green jersey at the Tour de France after Sagan was dismissed for what was deemed dangerous riding but the Tour and what went on in July is now in the past. That said, Matthews knows the weaponry Sagan has at his disposal and having a stronger team could be crucial in gaining the upper hand. The experience of Mat Hayman, the durability of Luke Durbridge, and the selflessness of Jack Haig and Mitch Docker, to name but a few, will be vital.
"We'll have to talk about tactics when the team all arrives but I think we just need to keep throwing stuff at him, I guess," he said.
"I'm just going in there knowing that I've had a good year and believing in myself. It's something that you need to do because even though it's the end of the season everyone is flying. It's almost 280km and it's a really long day but you've got to believe in yourself, know that you've done the hard work and then just hope that it all comes together on the day."
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