WHAT WE'VE LEARNED THIS MONTH
CLASSICS SPRINTERS RULE
The double win Michael Matthews achieved in Canada, at the GPs de Québec and Montréal, was a welcome return to form for the Australian, who has endured a difficult 2018 after problems with his bike set-up. And on the surface of it, his career is back on track - he’s a Classics rider and to have won two in the space of three days will have been a validating experience.
Some observers pointed out that Matthews’s victories were as meaningful for who he didn’t beat, rather than who he did. The big absence from Canada was Peter Sagan, who won Québec in 2016 and 2017, and Montréal 2013 (along with coming second in 2010 and 2016). But as the cliché goes, you can only beat who turns up for the race, and Matthews beat some quality opposition over the two days – the same riders, in fact, who have been beaten by Sagan in Canada, and also some who have beaten the Slovak. Greg Van Avermaet was second and third behind Matthews; the same rider beat Sagan in the 2016 Montréal race.
Whether Matthews would have beaten Sagan had he been there is an impossible argument to settle. But what his wins do demonstrate is that there is no sign of the Saganstyle Classics sprinter disappearing from prominence any time soon. Matthews is almost exactly in the same mould as the Slovak, perhaps a little weaker in a full bunch sprint, but as strong on the climbs, and a serious rival in a reduced sprint. With his bike issues resolved, the Australian will be confident of matching Sagan in 2019.