Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) started his season later than most but he’s been making up for lost time with an emphatic performance thus far at Paris-Nice. Matthews surprised many with by beating Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) in the prologue and has kept a firm grip on the yellow jersey since then, perhaps helped somewhat by the cancelled stage 3.
The Australian holds a slim lead in the general classification going into the final two stages but has already said that he is going all in for overall victory, which would be his first ever general classification win. Speaking to Cyclingnews a few days before Matthews made his season debut, Orica-GreenEdge team manager Shayne Bannan said that his young star was ahead of where he was at this point last year – his best season to date.
Bannan’s expectations proved to be right and, at 25 years of age and entering his sixth season as a professional, Matthews appears to be entering his prime as a rider. Bannan believes that we can expect more from Matthews in 2016. “I think that we will see much of the same that he did last year but a little bit better,” he told Cyclingnews at last week’s Track World Championships, where he was a guest of the Australian team.
“Michael’s progression has been amazing. He had a real breakthrough season last year with placings in Milan-San Remo and Amstel and also winning several stages all over the place. He’s still on a progressive pathway. I think that he is still on a progressive pathway this year and I think that you’ll see a percentage improvement again this year. He should be very proud of himself with his professionalism and the way that he manages himself. It’s nice to watch.”
Like last year, Matthews is using Paris-Nice as a building block for his bigger goal of Milan-San Remo. He took the same approach to La Primavera last season and he was rewarded with a third place behind John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff. Whatever the expectations that Matthews and the team put on him going into the race this year, the external expectations will be very high.
For Bannan, the result is not the primary focus for the Italian race. “There are a lot of very good riders going for the Milan-San Remo win and it is all about the processes,” said Bannan. “He’s had a really good preparation and, hopefully, Paris-Nice goes well for him and then what happens on the day could be anything. I do know that Michael and the guys will be doing everything they can to put him on the podium.”
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