Michael “Bling” Matthews is going back home.
The Australian will be returning to his former team Mitchelton-Scott in 2021 with a two-year deal.
The 29-year-old spent four years with then-named Orica GreenEdge from 2013 to 2016, a period where he took 18 race victories, including stages at all three grand tours and a six-day spell in the pink jersey at the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
“I saw a moment where it just felt right. As a sprinter and as a rider you feel moments like this and sometimes you just have to go with instinct,” Matthews said in a statement from Mitchelton-Scott on Sunday. “The opportunity was there to come back and you have to take them when they are there. At this moment in my career it just felt right, and the team has welcomed me back with open arms which is really special”
“I’m definitely happy to be coming back, I have some amazing memories from GreenEdge. [Team owner] Gerry Ryan supported me through my under-19, under-23 days and also in helping me turn professional, so it just feels like coming home.”
✒️‼️ BLING IS BACK ‼️🖋
"At this moment in my career it just felt right… it just feels like coming home." – @blingmatthews 🎙
We are excited to announce that 8-time GT stage winner Michael Matthews will return to the team in 2021. 🎉🥳🤗
— Team BikeExchange (@GreenEDGEteam) August 30, 2020
Matthews has spent four years with Team Sunweb, winning the Tour de France’s green jersey in his first season with the German outfit. Since then, the rider and team’s relationship has been less harmonious, and just hours before Mitchelton-Scott confirmed the deal, Sunweb announced that the Australian was free to move on despite being contracted through 2021.
It had come as a surprise to many, including Matthews, when his current team omitted him from their Tour de France squad, instead packing him off the Giro d’Italia. It turned out to be a symptom of a wider problem.
“We are now in a position where the composition of the team has changed, and we want to exploit that broadened collective strength in the classics and the sprints.” Sunweb director Iwan Spekenbrink said Sunday. “We respect that Michael has been open about his view on our goals and tactics in relation to his own specific strengths … All of this combined made us decide to respond favorably to his request to search for opportunities elsewhere.”
Mitchelton-Scott’s signing of the versatile sprinter in a season that will see them without GC option Adam Yates – who moves to Ineos Grenadiers – does not signpost the Australian squad moving back to its former stage-hunting roots having transitioned to a GC force in recent years, Matthews said.
“I want to get my own results, but also to be a part of the team that has GC goals as well,” Matthews said. “We will have Simon Yates that can win the biggest Grand Tours in the world and I would love to be part of that and there’s some young guys coming through, to help them progress too.
Team owner Ryan, who committed to further years of backing the squad in June this year after the tumultuous month where Manuela Fundacioun looked to become involved with the team, has a long and profitable relationship with Matthews.
“I have followed Michael’s journey from an aspiring junior to the world-class rider he is today and to witness the transition, both on and off the bike, has been incredibly satisfying for me,” Ryan said. “We couldn’t be happier to have him back home, this is where he belongs.”
Mitchelton-Scott has seen several big-name shuffles as it weighed into the transfer market in past months.
Veteran South African Daryl Impey and budding GC star Jack Haig are both on the way out in 2021, to Israel Start-Up Nation and Bahrain-McLaren respectively, while experienced superdomestique and GC option Tanel Kangert will join from EF Pro Cycling.