UCI World Road Championships: Michael Matthews retraces steps to claim more cycling ‘bling’ on home turf Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content

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By Iain Payten

The last time Michael Matthews raced in a UCI world championship road race on Australian soil, he ended the day with a rainbow jersey.

Barely a day goes by that Matthews doesn’t think about the “beautiful moment” he won the under-23s world championship in Geelong in 2010. When he first heard Australia would return as host in 2022, the 31-year-old Canberran set his sights on experiencing it all again in Wollongong.

So in the interests of replicating his win 12 years later – this time in the elite men’s race on Sunday – Matthews decided to retrace his steps.

“I have been trying to replicate, basically, everything I did that year, to be honest,” Matthews said.

“We went back to Canberra and did basically the same preparation at the AIS, using all the facilities there, which was really great.

“And just thinking back to that beautiful moment that we achieved there in Geelong. Obviously it was a long time ago now but it’s been on our minds almost every day since that moment, so that’s a massive motivation, thinking back to that moment and knowing it is possible to achieve. It is just a confidence booster knowing I have done it before, and it is possible to do it again.”

Michael Matthews celebrates after winning the under-23 road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Geelong in 2010.

Michael Matthews celebrates after winning the under-23 road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Geelong in 2010.Credit:Reuters

Matthews, who is known as “Bling”, is the standout chance for Australia in the 266.9 kilometre men’s road race. In a hot field, the bookies rate him among the top six contenders. That is based on a tough course that suits his all-round strengths, and superb form this season, which included a solo stage win in the Tour de France.

“Obviously expectation is just people believing in you, that you can actually come away with the goods. Hopefully that can happen and I can just use that positive energy that everyone is giving me to get across the line. I will just use it as a positive,” Matthews said.

“There are some very strong bike riders out there, I am not going to lie. The two favourites for the day, I think, are probably Wout [van Aert] and Tadej [Pogacar], they’re very strong at the moment. They’ll be the key guys trying to make the race and I will just be doing my thing, to make sure I can try and get on top.”

Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley also confirmed he would line up with the Australian team despite having COVID last week.

Meanwhile, leaders in the Australian women’s team say wet weather forecast for Saturday’s elite road race will change the nature of the race, but won’t dampen their confidence of putting a rider onto the podium.

Heavy rain fell throughout the under-19 and under-23 road races in Wollongong on Friday, leading to a number of falls and crashes. More rain is expected on Saturday before clearing for Sunday’s men’s race, but on a gruelling course, the weather is likely to make the women’s race even more “energy-sapping” and attritional, according to Brodie Chapman.

“Everyone will just be a bit more cautious ... and obviously there is a higher risk of crashing, that’s just how it is,” Chapman said.

“Slippery roads and unpredictable surfaces, there is a higher risk of crashing. But the professional peloton, we race in the rain a lot. We often race in the spring and when it is bucketing from start to finish. Hopefully, we know how to handle ourselves, but maybe just a bit slower in some sections.

Michael Matthews after winning stage 14 of the Tour de France this year.

Michael Matthews after winning stage 14 of the Tour de France this year.Credit:AP

“It certainly makes it a bit more attritional, because you do have to focus a lot more. Also, you use a bit more energy. It just saps your energy and, in a race like this, you want to conserve energy.”

The Australian team won the Commonwealth Games road race gold medal with sprinter Georgia Baker, but say the World Championships will be less about controlling the race with a fixed plan, and more about reacting to moves made by others. The team will look to put the in-form Grace Brown into medal contention, just six days after she won a silver in the time trial.

“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence in my form at the moment,” Brown said.

Stan Sport is the only place to watch every race from the 2022 UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong from September 18 - 25.

View the Stan Sport schedule here.

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