Place 3 - Michael Matthews
Type of Rider: Allrounder
Biggest Success: 2 stage wins Tour de Langkawi
Team/Club 2010: Team Jayco – Skins
Team 2011: Rabobank
Best Mock List Ranking: new
Only at age 16 Matthews began with competitive cycling. And three years later he already is one of the stars in the Under 23 class. In between there is a steady road to the top. This road began for the Canberra-born with taking the national title in the Under 17-category, which he won only 3 months after starting in cycle races!
In 2008 Matthews joined the Australian Junior national team, he had a strong second season on the Junior level and placed 8th at the World Championships, with two wins at the Internazionale Bresciana and a stage win at the GP General Patton.
In 2009 he debuted in the Under 23 class. Matthews joined Team Jayco. Running under different names, this team is beside the Mini-Rabos the best talent launcher in the world: the Meyer-brothers, Bobridge, Sulzberger, Johnnie Walker and Simon Clark have all made the transition to the Pros in the last three years.
In his debut season he had some Top 5-placings at the Tour of Japan (2.2). In sprints, but also in tough climbs and in time-trials he showed his talent. After a nondescript European season, later in the year he had strong results in homeland Australia. In the time-trial of the strongly contested Herald Sun Tour (2.1) he placed 7th when Wiggins won, in the sprint on the next stage he was 2nd. Following were wins in the Oceanian Championships both in the time-trial and the Under 23 road race.
For a first season on Elite level these were very good results, which after the parting of team leaders Travis Meyer, Jack Bobridge and Leigh Howard meant that he would be the captain in the following year.
And as a captain the career of the then 19-year-old exploded right at the beginning of the season. After a rather unremarkable Pro-Tour debut at the Tour Down Under (PT) with the national team, he celebrated his first Pro win at the Tour of Wellington (2.2) in New Zealand against full inner-continental competition, winning the 4th stage in a sprint and placing 2nd on two more stages, finishing 5th overall. That was an exclamation mark at the End of January. In the beginning of March he continued with placing exclamation marks aplenty. Two stage wins in sprints, the leader´s jersey for one day, a 2nd and a 4th place in stages at the Tour of Langkawi (2.HC) were his results. From this moment on it was obvious that Michael Matthews would be one of the stars of the Under 23 scene. This he confirmed in the following weeks with placing 2nd in the hilly Trofeo Piva Banca Popolare di Vicenza (1.2U), the cobble-paved Ronde van Vlaanderen Beloften (1.NC) and the sprinter´s GP della Liberazione (1.2U). The successes came serially, continued at the Tour of Japan where he took his 4th season win in a short time-trail, only missing out once at placing Top-five in the 6 following stages, finishing 8th in a mountain stage. This meant he finished 4th overall. Pro wins 5 and 6 came 10 days later in Norway at the GP Ringerike (2.2). There the all-rounder won stages 2 and 3 in sprints. In five stages a 7th place was the worst ranking, and he also placed 7th in the overall classification. The Thüringen Rundfahrt (2.2U) was his last race before a 3 month racing break, where he wanted to gain freshness for the World Championships. With his team, he took the team-time-trial and wore the leader´s jersey for two days.
After the break the Australian returned at the Tour de l´Avenir (2.NC) in France. Against top Under 23 competition he tested himself to check his World Championship form. Rank 3 in the 7 km-prologue behind Phinney and Dowsett raised medal hopes for his homeland World Championships. With placing 2nd in the sprint for the next stage and 8th in a tough mountain finish, which resulted in 8th place overall, again he proved his all-round abilities.
These abilities and the form he showed in France make Matthews without doubt to a top contender for medals. In the time-trial he may be a dark horse, in the road race he is one of the favorites. Next year Matthew´s jersey will be orange and blue, as he signed for Rabobank in September. The Dutch team was impressed by his second place at the Ronde and his versatility. The fact that Matthews only has been racing for 3 years now gave the team management hope that he still has room to improve.
The danger for a versatile Under 23 rider lies in this versatility itself. On Pro level, specialization is a must, else a degradation to a helper looms. In which way he will specialize, probably only the rider himself and the Rabobank team management know. Time-trialist, stage racer, sprinter, classics specialist – all doors seem to be open for the 19-year-old.
Nominated by all, written by ogkempf, translated by bugno