Australian Michael Matthews announced today via his Sunweb team that he would be focusing on Italian races this season instead of the Tour de France, as was originally planned. On form in the early season before the coronavirus crisis, Matthews looks back on lockdown, and looks ahead to riding Milano-Sanremo with no racing in his legs since March.
VeloNews: Hey Michael, how are you doing?
Michael Matthews: Yeah, good, I am just relaxing at the playground with my daughter Kaia in the sun.
VN: Michael you live in Monaco, which had the same lockdown restrictions as France and so you were confined for basically two months. How did it work out for you?
MM: Yeah down in the south of France we pretty much were not allowed to do anything outside, which was pretty difficult, but I got through it and came out the other side okay.
Basically I just did Zwift rides and some core stretching. We had a little training group that would connect on 9:30-10:00 every day and then connect to a Zoom call and chat a bit. We’d do some little races between us etc. It definitely helped me get through the long days. Four hours was pretty much my longest ride. But really I think it is important to set goals for the trainer. That just makes the hours so much easier.
VN: And who do you train with mostly in Monaco. There are obviously a lot of riders to choose from.
MM: I have a little group with Richie Porte and Nicolas Roche. We ride most days together. That’s our little group, and we’ve been riding together for a few years. We train at similar speeds, at least until Richie takes off on one of his efforts. But it is a good group. Richie can try to sprint against us and he pushes us to climb. And we’re good friends.
VN: You were at Paris-Nice just before lockdown here in France. The team rode tremendously, especially on stage six, where Tiesj Benoot won, and you finished second. How did you feel about your spring condition?
MM: Well I think we went into Paris-Nice in great shape and on that medium mountain stage we really showed it. And I showed that I was ready for the classics period which was a big focus for me. A stage like that showed that I could get over the medium climbs and be really punchy at the finish. That was what I was aiming for, but I wasn’t really able to do anything with it.
VN: You just released your new schedule and you made some important choices, skipping the Tour de France and focusing on the Italian races like the Milano-Sanremo and the Giro di Lombardia, and then, of course, the Giro d’Italia.
MM: At the beginning of the season my program was to do the classics and the Tour, but when I got my program it switched to the Giro. But I am looking forward to that. I haven’t raced the Giro since 2015 so I am looking forward to it. We have a nice team that is going there. I think we have fun with that. When we first looked at the Giro months ago, I wasn’t sure that it looked good. But the more I look into it, it looks better and better, so I am really looking forward to it.
VN: You are starting Sanremo — nearly 300 kilometers — with no racing since March. How are you going to get the proper condition?
MM: Well it is going to be difficult. I was hoping to do a race before. I’ll just have to go to Sanremo with an open mind and a lot of hard training. But that suits me well. Every year for the last three or four years, I have had a late start to the season and jumped right into a hard race. I think I have proved that I can do it and hopefully it will work out again.