12 years after winning the U23 rainbow jersey on home soil, Michael Matthews is ready to complete a historic home double with the complete backing of the Australian team.
Should the 31-year-old prevail on Sunday’s UCI Road World Championships elite men’s road race, Matthews would be the first rider ever to complete an U23 and elite double. He would also be the first rider since Alessandro Ballan in 2008 to win an elite title on home soil, and the third since Bernard Hinault in 1980.
A medal on Sunday would also be the first time a home rider has finished on the podium of a World Championships since Alexander Kristoff’s second place in 2017.
Although history therefore suggests home Worlds do not correlate to home medal success, sometimes because of leadership questions, for Sunday it is clear Matthews has the full backing of the team in 2022.
This was symbolised by all eight members of the Australian team talking to the press on Friday afternoon, united behind their leader. Each rider fielded questions and they all reiterated their job is to deliver Matthews into the rainbow stripes.
The experienced triumvirate of Simon Clarke, Luke Durbridge and Heinrich Haussler in particular will have key roles to play on Sunday, charged with protecting Matthews around the course.
“In races like this with no radio, it is key to have a clear plan before we start the race and then basically it’s up to Durbo, Heino and I to make sure that plan’s executed properly. The lack of radios just makes that job even more important,” said Simon Clarke.
“In saying that, I don’t think there is a need to have that much direction on the job because everyone knows the job they are here to do. In any race situation, everyone knows how we need to react.”
Back to basics
Along with his rainbow jersey of 2010, Matthews’ palmares includes silver at Richmond in 2015, bronze at Bergen in 2017, plus fourth in Doha and seventh in Imola.
But it is his U23 triumph rather than his podiums that Matthews thinks of daily as he’s gone back to basics in 2022, replicating his 2010 training plan.
“We went back to Canberra, we did the same preparation at the AIS using a lot of facilities there,” he said of his first return to his hometown since 2017. “Thinking back to that beautiful moment and what we achieved there in Geelong, it was a long time ago now but still, it’s been on my mind almost every day. It’s a major motivation thinking back to that moment and knowing that it is…
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