Michael Matthews: First priority is to re-sign with BikeExchange, I’ll know my future by Tour de France rest day
The versatile Australian is sick and has finished second twice in the Tour de France so far. Can he win a stage and improve his contract position?
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SAINT-ÉTIENNE, France (VN) — The Tour de France final rest day is fast approaching and with it a flurry of activity as rider agents jet in to finalize contract negotiations for their clients.
A number of high-profile deals have already been ratified, such as Richard Carapaz to EF, Dylan van Baarle to Jumbo Visma, and Eddie Dunbar to BikeExhange-Jayco but one rider on the Australian team still has to decide on his future.
Michael Matthews rejoined Gerry Ryan’s team at the start of 2021 after a long stint at Team DSM. The reunion has only yielded one win in almost 18 months — a stage in the Tour of Catalunya in March, and a contract extension has so far not been agreed on. Matthews has told VeloNews that his first priority is to stay on the team for which he won his first Tour de France stage back in 2016.
The team isn’t against a contract extension, VeloNews understands, but they are still monitoring the situation involving Adam Yates at Ineos, who has also drawn interest from several other teams. Ineos confirmed to VeloNews earlier this week that they were still in discussions with Yates over a new deal.
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If Matthews is to stay where he is he may need to consider a slight drop in wage demands. He remains a hugely consistent rider and is the team’s top points earlier this calendar year. For e team fighting possible relegation, such an asset is almost priceless but the win tally hasn’t quite reached either Matthews’ or the team’s expectations. There remains huge respect between both parties but the deal needs to be right.
“Obviously, I’m in discussion and I should know by the next rest day. Staying would be my first priority but then we’ll see,” Matthews told VeloNews after stage 13.
A stage win in the next two days would ultimately give Matthews a much stronger bargaining position. On stage 13 he had an off day and was unable to get into the break or contest the finish. He is still recovering from a non-COVID illness and the stages to Mende and then Carcassonne offer opportunities ahead of the key mountain stages next week.
Matthews has already finished twice in this year’s Tour de France, on stages 6 and 8 but a win would turn everything around both in terms of his negotiations and his season.
“Obviously, we knew that it was going to be a breakaway and that it would have a high chance of winning the stage. That was the first priority. When we missed that we gambled a little bit, and personally I had a really bad day, but Dylan got over the climbs quite well,” he said after stage 13.
“When the crash with Caleb Ewan happened it was ‘ok what do we do now?’ And we just waited too late to start our chase. I was initially thinking about going in the break but I didn’t have the legs, and I’m still coughing up a lot of stuff from my chest. I’m not sure what it is but I have a lot of green and yellow stuff coming out of my nose and mouth. It’s not COVID, and I’m being tested two times a day for that. I still can’t race like my normal self,” he added.
“The next two days are opportunities and hopefully I’m feeling better and not sick. It’s really difficult to race with these guys when you’re not at 100 percent.”