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by Shane Stokes
April 5, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
While many of the top one day riders were battling it out in the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, Michael Matthews was approximately 1000 kilometres away, focussing on the 1.1-ranked Vuelta Ciclista a La Rioja.
The Australian rider triumphed in the event, sprinting in ahead of Russia’s Sergey Shilov, Caja Rural-Seguros RGA and the rest of the main bunch.
It’s a race he likes: he finished as runner-up in 2013 and won it in 2014.
Netting his second career victory in the event and his third race win of the season proves that his form is good.
However, given his strong performances in other one day events in the past makes it logical to ponder how he might fare in a race like the Tour of Flanders. Netting silver in last year’s world championships proves he can handle long, tough courses. In addition to that, victories such as his Vuelta a España stage win in 2014 illustrate that he is a strong climber on short, steep ramps.
Could he not aim for the Ronde and become a contender for the win?
“It is something that Michael has been thinking about for the future,” Orica GreenEdge general manager Shayne Bannan confirmed to CyclingTips on Sunday.
“It could be a possibility in the next couple of years. You may see him start to go more for the cobbled Classics.”
Bannan confirmed that it wasn’t a deliberate decision to avoid the Tour of Flanders, but rather the case than Matthews had other goals in mind at this point in the season.
However in future years that could well change.
“It certainly is something he has been thinking about,” said Bannan. “It is being discussed. So at some stage in the future I think you will see Michael here.”
Given his ability and also past evidence of other sprinting all-rounders faring well in the event, it’s conceivable that he could become a top contender.