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Michael Matthews feels golden with bronze medal at home world championships: ‘It feels like a win’

Australian regains shine with back-to-basics approach as he battles to save BikeExchange-Jayco from WorldTour relegation.

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Michael Matthews carried all-new mojo into the 2022 road world championships and came out with a bronze medal that felt good as gold.

Matthews delivered on the confidence of the Australian team selectors that centered the home nation’s hopes around him Sunday. The 31-year-old placed third in what was the third trip to an elite world road race podium of his career.

“This result’s the best. It’s definitely the most special,” he said of his growing collection of championships medals.

“I’ve been second. But the second-place was also quite a long way away from this. I think the level of cycling is so high at the moment. It’s just incredible to be up here with this bronze medal.”

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The Canberra native placed second in the Richmond worlds in 2015 before finishing third in Bergen and fourth in Doha in the years that followed. He also won the U23 title in Geelong more than a decade ago.

And although Remco Evenepoel was dominant in the Wollongong road race and Christophe Laporte was best-of-the-rest, home hero Matthews got the biggest cheer of the day from the massed Australian spectators when he stepped to the podium Sunday.

In some ways, it scored Matthews the first-place still missing from his palmarès.

“Obviously, we came here for the rainbow stripes on home soil but coming away with third place, definitely, it feels like a win here,” he told the press.

‘Bling’ regains shine with back to basics approach

Matthews galloped to third in front of home crowds Sunday.

Matthews rolled into the 2022 worlds with sizzling form but the pressure to make it convert. Australian selectors put all their chips on the 31-year-old and left sprinter ace Caleb Ewan at home in anticipation of a tough, selective race.

Matthews entered the top of bookies’ betting slips for Sunday’s race after he scored standout victory at the Tour de France and backed it up with second-place in the recent GP Québec.

The Australian was up there with Wout van Aert, Tadej Pogačar, and the rest of the world’s beyond-the-sport stars that until recently overshadowed him. It put the rider known as “Bling” back in the spotlight after a spring campaign riddled with potholes and banana peels.

“It was a roller coaster at the start of the season with crashes and sickness and really bad times,” Matthews said.

“My shape was always there. But unfortunately, these little things were holding me back. So I’ve just been lucky with a bit more, well, luck, since the Tour de France with that victory,” he continued.

“From there, it’s been rolling. I’ve got my confidence back and am enoying the bike again. So hopefully I can keep this going and finish the season on a high. I mean, having a medal here in Australia, having third place on home soil, it feels like a win.”

Matthews moved to the very center of his BikeExchange-Jayco team when he rejoined the Aussie squad last season but initially struggled to hit the winner’s circle.

The 31-year-old turned it around in 2022 to score BikeExchange some of the biggest victories of the team’s season and hit momentum in time for his home worlds.

“Last year, we were overthinking too much. We tried to do too many things. And we just went back to what we knew worked for us,” Matthews said of his new approach to training and racing.

“I think we just put way too much thinking into it actually, which didn’t seem to work out in a positive way. And it became negative.

“So we went back to just training hard, enjoying time with my family, and being surrounded by good people. I think that’s the most important thing.”

‘The form is good so I may as well continue trying to pick up a few more wins’

Michael Matthews wins in Mende
Michael Matthews surged to top form at the Tour de France and hopes to carry it through the fall. (Photo: Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images)

Matthews won’t have much time to relish his ride onto the podium Down Under.

BikeExchange-Jayco is deep in a WorldTour relegation dogfight, and despite Matthews scoring a crucial 400 UCI points Sunday that should nudge them a little further from danger, the Aussie fast-finisher is needed back in team-issue blue.

Also read: How BikeExchange is threading the UCI points battle in Wollongong

“I’ve still got four more races to go, so the season’s not finished yet. I think we have some good points today with third place here,” he said.

“I’m heading back to Italy for racing next week, And then to France. And then back to Italy for a few more days. The form is good so I may as well continue trying to pick up a few more wins toward the end of the season, then we’ll see.”