Aussie Focus

Crashes derail classics but Matthews ambitious for rest of 2021

Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) spoke to SBS Cycling Central's Dave McKenzie after the recent end to the traditional European spring classics, lamenting bad luck and crashes but looking ahead with optimism to the rest of the 2021 season.

Michael Matthews, Team BikeExchange, Fleche Wallonne

Michael Matthews in action for Team BikeExchange at Fleche Wallonne Source: Getty

Michael Matthews went into the cobbled and Ardennes classics period with high expectations both personally and externally riding on his performances throughout the big races. While there were a number of top finishes for the Canberran, including fourth at Amstel Gold, fifth at Gent-Wevelgem and sixth at Milan-San Remo, but it was short of the marquee victory that Matthews and his Australian WorldTour squad were seeking.

"It just definitely didn't start off on a great note," said Matthews. "I had a decent Paris-Nice... first race for the team. We got some podiums on some stage and Lucas Hamilton did really well on the GC as well. Everything was looking good going into the classics.

"First classic, E3, I crashed and hit a parked car which wasn't the greatest way to start the classics. I had a few injuries from that which was not great. I went from there to Gent-Wevelgem with a few injuries still around. I managed to get fifth there which was a pretty good result, but when you're in the finish there for a potential win it can be a bit hard to swallow."


That run of ill luck continued with crashes in the Tour of Flanders, then again in Brabantes Pijl. Matthews kept on persevering but was constantly coming back from setbacks rather than riding high on top of his form. 

"I continued the bad luck from there, having two crashes in Flanders... it was definitely a rocky cobbled classics campaign. Just not having a lot of luck, you need everything to go to plan to be on the top step and having a bit of misfortune, it's hard to come back from that.

"Coming into the Ardennes I could try and get back on that podium, on the top step, and reward the team for all the hard work we've done in the offseason. Showing them why they brought me back.

"I went to Brabantse Pijl, crashed at 65 km/hr straight on my shoulder. Did my shoulder and skin off all over my body. So yeah, I've been unlucky this classics campaign, it's definitely not through a lack of trying, it's a really strong team and we rode well together. In these Classics, you need a lot of luck and luck wasn't on my side this year, unfortunately."

The majority of work that goes into winning bike races happens away from the spectacle of racing and the watching eyes of the world, effort that Matthews had put in and felt that wasn't represented in his results.  

"It's hard when you don't get to show all the hard work you've put in over the offseason," said Matthews. "All the detail you put into preparing yourselves for those one-day classics, for them to work out is difficult and hard to swallow.

"Each race that didn't work out I tried to turn the page and continue to fight for the next one. Not get too down about what happened in the race, keep that fighting spirit to keep focused for the next one. They all come so quick, I think the maximum is three days between these races so you don't have much time to reset. I think I did my best and in the end, the bad luck just continued."

The 30-year-old will take a break in racing now, but will return to competition at the Tour de Suisse, building to a participation at the Tour de France and the Olympics Games pending selection. While the results were not all that Matthews hoped for, he spoke of his return to Australian WorldTour squad Team BikeExchange with passion.

"It's an amazing feeling," said Matthews of being back with the team that he rode with for four seasons previously. "The way this team goes about its business is next level. The way they ride together, the way they support each other before and after the race whether we win, lose or draw... we know we've all given our best.

"We fought together and did it together as a team. You feel like you're a part of something."

For the rest of the season, Matthews mentioned targets of the Tokyo Olympics and the world championships in particular, with both course seeming to suit the all-round rider's abilities.

"The Olympics, that's a big goal of mine,' said Matthews. "I really want to represent Australia in the Olympics and if I can be in shape and it's a course that suits me I want to go in all guns blazing. It's going to be a big year that's for sure."

"Over the last six or seven years, whether it (the world championships route) was a flat, intermediate or hilly course it has seemed to suit me. It's a hard one to say exactly.

"It's around the Brabantes Pijl course which I seem to do well in and I really enjoy, which is a good start. Seeing it yesterday, I'm a little bit less scared from what everyone was saying. It's very hard, don't get me wrong, but also quite selective which I like. We did a lot of the climbs in Brabantes Pijl a week and we're going to look at that finishing circuit as well."

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5 min read
Published 28 April 2021 at 11:06am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS