• (L-R) Sonny Colbrelli, Michael Matthews and Greg van Avermaet. (Getty)Source: Getty
Back-to-back WorldTour races wins in Canada this weekend is the best possible result at the tail of a less than ideal season for last year’s Tour de France points champion, Michael Matthews.
Aaron S. Lee

Cycling Central
10 Sep 2018 - 8:46 AM  UPDATED 10 Sep 2018 - 10:17 AM

Two days after taking out the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec (1.UWT), the 27-year-old Matthews became only the second rider to do the double in the both race’s nine-year history with a sensational come-from-behind victory over Italian Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) on 500-metre uphill sprint in Montréal.

Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet (BMC), who finished second to Matthews on Friday, claimed third.

The only other rider to claim both races in the same year is fellow Aussie and former Orica-GreenEDGE team-mate Simon Gerrans (BMC), who is retiring at the end of the 2018 season.

“When I saw Simon Gerrans do this in 2014, I was at the Vuelta and it was something special for Cycling Australia to see an Aussie win both of these races in a row,” Matthews said. “And it’s been a massive goal for me to also try and achieve that.

“For Simon Gerrans’s career, he has had so many results and someone I’ve looked up to, and for him to be here in the race today and witness me do what he was able to do is also really special.”

Bling's classy victory in Québec
Aussie Michael Matthews conquered a classy field at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec while fellow Canberran Nathan Haas finished eighth, an excellent result after a challenging season.

Following the better part of a year plagued with a nagging shoulder injury sustained in February at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in his first race of the year and the disappointment of withdrawing from the Tour following the fourth stage due to illness, thus leaving Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) an easy path to reclaim the green jersey, a record-tying sixth of his career, Matthews was due a reversal of fortune.

After self-adjusting his seat height by eight millimetres, ’Bling’ has shone brilliantly over the past month with a stage win and a runner-up general classification result at the Binck Bank Tour and fourth at the Bretagne Classic in August before claiming his 36th and 37th career pro victories over the weekend.

“After the way this season’s gone, it’s been difficult,” the 27-year-old Canberran told Cycling Central prior to the start in Montréal.

“I also could have just said it’s a shit season, maybe I just scrap it and start again. I just kept believing eventually my luck was going to change, and my legs have gotten a lot better.

“My shoulder is still not 100 per cent, I need to work a lot on my shoulder to make sure it’s ready for next season.

“I just kept believing. My wife kept believing in me and we kept trying and we finally cracked that curse that we had.”

Matthews wins GP de Montreal

Matthews claims one of the keys to his recent success in the latter half of the year is time spent with compatriot and fellow Monaco resident, Richie Porte, a heavy pre-race favourite, who crashed out of the Tour on Stage 9.

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“Once me and Richie were both out of the Tour, we were really focused on the world championships together,” said Matthews regarding time spent with Porte preparing for the upcoming UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria in late September.

“I really wanted to go there and help him to win the world championships. We trained really a lot together. Waking up at five o’clock in the morning, every morning, and heading out doing three-four day blocks of six hours in the mountains. That was massive motivation for me and for him to really get back into shape after our bad luck in the Tour de France.”

However, Matthews, who has two podiums in the past three world championships won by Peter Sagan, will not be among the eight men selected to attend this year’s climber-friendly road course in Europe.

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“I was sort of expecting to go,” Matthews said. “Richie is one of my best mates and I really wanted to go there and help him win the race, but the Aussie selectors thought that there were other riders better to do that sort of a job for Richie. Hopefully, they’re correct. I still don’t totally agree with it, but I have to accept their decision and wish them all the best.

“[Richie] is super-focused on the race obviously,” he continued when asked about Porte’s response following his non-selection. “He said he pushed a lot for me to get a spot to help him, but in the end, if the team’s convinced him that there are other riders better than me to help him then he also has to believe in what the Aussie team has said and go with it.”

It’s an omission that still weighs heavily on Matthews’s mind, but not one that will he will need to fuel his own fire to succeed.

“Things like this don't really get me motivated. It’s more like disappointment. I think the last four years I've been top four every world championships that I’ve started. It sort of feels to me like respect went out the window with my shit start to the season.

"I don't know, I hope it’s not that, but with all the stuff that’s happened this year it seemed like everything was just crumbling down.”

Despite feeling shunned by the national selectors, steadfast support from team and family has strengthened Matthews throughout a season full disappointments.

It’s been hard but I don't think I find motivation from it. I just deal with what’s been thrown at me,” he said. "I have a really good team around me with Team Sunweb to make sure I stay on the right track, and with a really good family around me, with my wife and my new baby girl, we’ve stayed strong and kept going.”