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by Shane Stokes
August 4, 2016
Photography by Kristof Ramon
Moving to replace a departing John Degenkolb, the Giant-Alpecin has signed a younger rider who is also strong in uphill sprint finishes and who has big Classic potential.
The Dutch team has inked a three year deal with Australian Michael Matthews, who described himself as very happy with the move.
“I have always admired the way the team approaches the sport as a team sport,” said Matthews on Tuesday. “The stronger and the better we can have the team as a collective operate and perform, the better the opportunities for success the leaders have for the finales of races.
“I am confident that I will be able to get the best out of myself both as a rider and as an individual. The team is already used to working for dedicated leaders in various types of races and has proven that strategy with great results in the biggest races on the calendar. That’s the process which I want to help strengthen and where I want to be a part of and contribute to, and I am very much looking forward to joining the team.”
Matthews raced with Orica-GreenEdge for four seasons but on several occasions in the past, there have been apparent rivalries with teammate Simon Gerrans. His comment about a strong collective may be a reference to this; certainly, team CEO Iwan Spekenbrink said that Matthews’ development and backing will be a major priority for the squad.
“We are extremely happy and proud to sign a rider like Michael,” he stated. “We have always set our standards high and been very ambitious with our objectives. Michael is a very talented rider and we are pleased that he has recognized the value of our approach to help him continue his development as a rider.
“Michael has the character and the will to integrate well with the team, and we are looking forward to working closely with him the next years.”
A former world under 23 champion, the 25 year old rider has achieved a rare feat by winning stages in all three Grand Tours. He has notched up three stages in the Vuelta a España, two in the Giro d’Italia and one this year in the Tour de France.
He has a total of 25 professional victories to date, including stages in Paris-Nice, the Tour of Utah, the Vuelta a Murcia and the Santos Tour Down Under. He has also underlined his class in one day events via wins in the Rund um Koln, the Clásica de Almería and the Vuelta a La Rioja, as well as second in last year’s world road race championships.
He has also finished on the podium at Milan–San Remo, Amstel Gold Race and Brabantse Pijl, and Giant-Alpecin have realistic hopes that he can take major Classics with them.
“In the versatile and talented Matthews, the team has found a world-class rider with the ability to focus on results on a variety of terrain and in the Classics, stage races and Grand Tours,” it said. “The team is confident that Matthews has significant potential for further growth. The team believes that through its “Keep Challenging” philosophy, it will be able to help him progress and fulfil his full potential.”
If he can indeed keep building, some major victories are in store.