WHAT WE'VE LEARNED THIS MONTH

CLAS­SICS SPRINT­ERS RULE

Procycling - - DEBRIEF -

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.

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