Aussie Focus

Matthews eyes Tour de France opening stages with yellow on the line

Michael Matthews will continue his storied career at the 2021 Tour de France, with the first two stages looking right up the 30-year-old's alley.

After a year off from the Tour de France, a decision by then-Team Sunweb that saw Michael Matthews switch back to Australian WorldTour squad Team BikeExchange for 2021, Matthews is eager to get underway - on the eve of the biggest race in cycling.

“It’s really exciting. Last year I missed the Tour de France, it was difficult to watch it on TV,” Matthews said.

“It’s nice coming back to the team after four years away. I can’t wait to get it underway, there’s been a lot of build-up to this race and it’s nice to get here and I’m ready to go.”


It will be Matthews’ sixth Tour de France, with past Tours having yielded three stage wins, a green jersey victory and countless memories for the Canberran.

He nominated his first stage win racing with the Australian WorldTour squad back in 2016 as a treasured moment, while standing atop the podium in Paris with the Australian flag as the winner of the points classification in 2017 is hard to describe.

“Any sort of words you use don’t really do it justice,” he said.

“Having the Australian flag behind me and the green jersey on my shoulders … I don’t think I ever dreamed that would happen.

“Seeing the guys that have done it over the years and putting my name in that book was not even a dream come true, it’s something that I didn’t think would happen to me in my career.

"Having my family and wife with me there on the Champs Elysees, it’s something that I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.”

The history books are still far from closed on Matthews’ career, and the 2021 Tour represents another chance to add some pages to the legend of one of Australia’s best riders of his generation.

Two shortish uphill finishes mark the start of this year's Tour de France, prime Matthews’ territory, though the win will be hotly contested by the likes of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who all hope to pull on the first yellow jersey of the race.

“We arrived a couple of days early before the Tour and we’ve done the two stages that are first up,” Matthews said.

“Stage 1 is going to be harder than people expected leading into this Tour de France. It’s a 3.5 km uphill finish which is really going to burn the legs after all the stress of the Tour.

“It’ll open up a lot of opportunities for a lot of riders. It will be for sure exciting watching on TV.

"We have options, it’s not just me, we have some punchy climbers as well, so plenty of riders in the team who can do something.”

Beyond that, there are a few chances for further wins, but Matthews wasn’t optimistic about his chances of repeating his 2017 triumph of winning the points classification.

“I think they’re changing it a bit more to make a pure sprinter win the green jersey,” he said of the race organisers.

“Putting the sprints a bit earlier in the stages, rather than in the middle of the mountains - where they were for the last few where Sagan was continuing to win the green, also me.

“I’ll just focus on my stages and we’ll see what happens towards the end. It’s not our clear goal this year for sure, the course doesn’t suit me as much as it did in 2017.

“I think we counted five good opportunities which suited my characteristics as a rider then we have all the sprint stages as well.

"We brought Luka Mezgec here as a leadout for me. He hasn’t raced in a while, but he’s showed he’s in really good shape.”

With everything set for the start of the Tour, all that’s left is to start the race and see how everything pans out.

Now an experienced campaigner, Matthews was reflective ahead of a race that is rarely short of drama.

“The Tour de France, you never really know,” Matthews said.

"It’s such a rollercoaster, I’ve been through so many highs and lows. Every day you get a chance to ride a Tour de France stage you should take it with both hands because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Every moment of the 2021 Tour de France will be live, free and exclusive on SBS - with the ŠKODA Tour Tracker app, SBS TV and the SBS Cycling Central the places to catch all the pulsating action from June 26 to July 18.

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5 min read
Published 26 June 2021 at 2:31am
By Jamie Finch-Penninger