It’s been a barren year for Matthews in terms of wins, but the effort and desire are clearly there, with a number of close-runs at the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and during the classics seeing a promising if frustrating year at times for the Team BikeExchange rider.
However, the man from the nation’s capital has been supported by fellow Canberran, Nathan Haas, who believes that there’s still a special ride in Matthews at the world championships, which coincides with his 31st birthday.
“He can rise to the occasion,” said Haas in an interview with Cyclingnews. “Maybe it’s wishful thinking but maybe this whole season of not being quite there is just building towards this narrative of getting his biggest result.
“That’s how cycling goes sometimes. Just look at Michael Valgren. He hadn’t won a race in over three years and then he wins two in a week.”
Haas has ridden alongside and against Matthews for much of his career, stretching back to their junior days.
“I grew up with Bling and we’ve had the same coach since we were 15,” said Haas. “We’d train in garages together in winter and the one thing that I know about him is that his nickname is Bling for a reason and something amazing always happens.”
Matthews will likely be Australia’s main rider for the race, though Caleb Ewan is there if the event is less selective and the squad boasts a number of riders suited to long-range attacks. Matthews will get a chance to showcase his current form when he lines up for the German WorldTour race Eschborn-Frankfurt - shown Sunday from 2230 AEST on SBS VICELAND – a race that he has previously finished runner-up in.
Haas was selected to ride in the Australian team in Flanders, making only his second appearance for Australia in the elite men’s road race at Worlds. Haas has experienced a relatively quiet season in Cofidis colours but has acted as a solid teammate throughout the campaign. Those qualities attracted the attention of the road coach management and Haas is eager to pay back their support and trust.
“I was pretty touched to be selected for the team, to be honest,” said Haas. “There have been years when I thought that I deserved it for the year that I've and not been selected and there have been years when I've been selected and it could have gone either way.
“This year I’m honoured that they’re bringing me for my experience and not necessarily my season. I was touched that Cycling Australia (now AusCycling) looked at my career like that.”
Watch all the action from the 2021 UCI Road World Championships on SBS VICELAND and SBS OnDemand from September 19-26! The Elite Men's time trial will be shown on Sunday, September 19 from 2210 AEST on SBS OnDemand.