• Michael Matthews will have to focus on a stage win for Sunweb at the Tour. (Getty)Source: Getty
Australian Michael Matthews will have to sacrifice a concerted green jersey defence at the Tour de France next month if Sunweb teammate Tom Dumoulin starts as anticipated.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
6 Jun 2018 - 11:11 AM  UPDATED 6 Jun 2018 - 11:12 AM

Dutch press reported last week Dumoulin will confirm his participation at the 105th edition in the imminent future. That may shape the course of the race for Matthews, who was the only rider that didn’t mentally surrender to Marcel Kittel in the hunt for the points classification last season.

“He needs to bring his A-game to the Tour if he wants to even have a shot at the green jersey,” Sunweb sports director Aike Visbeek said.

“The green jersey challenge also hangs together with our GC ambitions because if we go with Tom for GC it will definitely change the landscape of priorities for us. Michael has to bring more support to the GC so then it will almost be impossible to also focus on the green jersey. The important thing is, and what we’re focusing on with Michael now, is to get him in the absolute best shape possible for the Tour de France.”

 SBS will broadcast and stream all stages of the 7-29 July 2018 Tour de France live and free in HD. Details TBA.

Matthews, through an unyielding contestation of intermediate primes and a stage win, assumed the maillot vert on stage 17 after Kittel crashed out of the race, and carried it through to Paris. The 27-year-old will still have a shot at stage victories this season but Giro d’Italia runner-up Dumoulin will be a priority over the green jersey - at least in the opening nine stages.

“You always have it in the back of your mind but the primary goal is to win stages and we don’t think it’s a very favourable Tour this year,” Visbeek said.

That extends to Dumoulin, who will have to build a significant buffer on Chris Froome (Sky) through those stages, which feature a team time trial, cobbles and additional time bonuses, to withstand the defending race champion in the mountains.

“The green jersey only gets a goal when the situation is there, when there is no GC goal and when it really is, how do you say, when the race unfolds in a good way for him,” Visbeek continued.

Matthews will start the Tour de Suisse from Saturday as final preparation for July.

He has marked one victory this season, winning the Tour of Romandie prologue, in what Visbeek said was a small but important triumph on the back a frustrating spring classics campaign affected by injury.

Matthews opened his 2018 season at February’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with the intention of adding an Ardennes Classic to his CV but was ultimately put on the back foot when he crashed there and fractured his shoulder.

“I think it was really important to get that victory down in Romandie because he’s all about winning. Although it was maybe not the victory he’d hoped he would get, there is some good and positive things,” Visbeek said.

“It was his first spring where he had a setback but he still comes seventh in Milan-San Remo, does a really good Fleche-Wallonne, comes up short in a real climber’s edition of Liege, unfortunately, and he crashed in Amstel Gold Race but was on a high level. Normally the guys don’t bounce back if they crash that hard in Nieuwsblad.

“He got a wake-up call on how to deal with these situations because that’s also in a Grand Tour, you can miss out on two bunch sprints and think it’s all gone,” Visbeek continued. “Like last year, with Marcel being so far ahead, you know, that was also a mind twist where you can say listen, we stick to the plan and we go for it.”

First week key to any Dumoulin Tour campaign, says Sunweb director
Tom Dumoulin’s overall bid at the Tour de France will bank on the opening nine stages should he take to the start, according to Team Sunweb sports director Aike Visbeek.

Ewan sizes up rivals ahead of Tour debut
Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan has begun to assess rivals as he etches closer toward a long-awaited if not overdue Tour de France debut, with Marcel Kittel chief amongst them.