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“There are a lot of unknowns with different teams and different riders for Flanders,” team sport director Mat Hayman told Velonews. “But we’re just focusing on our guys, and making sure that they’re where they need to be to give Michael Matthews an opportunity to get the win – and that’s our goal.”
Matthews is putting an added focus on the cobblestones this season, and rides into Flanders with momentum under his tires after top-six finishes at Milano-Sanremo and Gent-Wevelgem. And behind him, his BikeExchange squad has found its cadence after splitting the bunch in Wevelgem and seeing Luke Durbridge animating Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday.
“I think every race that we do together we are going to get better and better,” Matthews said. “I think we impressed a lot of people with what we did at Gent-Wevelgem. Then on Wednesday at Dwars door Vlaanderen, the guys did an awesome job for ‘Durbo’ to put him up there in the final and have a good crack. I think ‘Durbo’ is also in good shape to hopefully be with us there in the final at Flanders.”
Also read: Expect the unexpected at Tour of Flanders
Could Matthews cause an upset on the cobbles Sunday? The 30-year-old sits high on the form-guide after stringing together a series of top results this season, and having ridden to sixth at his first and only appearance at De Ronde to date, “Bling” has got the pedigree, the form, and the confidence of his director and former teammate.
“He’s been there or thereabouts in all the races: Paris-Nice he was on form, Milano-Sanremo he was on form. He had a crash in E3 which took him out, but he was there in Wevelgem,” Hayman said. “His form is very good he prepared very well, meticulously for season. He’s in a great spot and that also gives confidence the other guys.”
As an added incentive, a Flanders win would grant the BikeExchange franchise a monument sweep: Simon Gerrans won Milano-Sanremo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Esteban Chaves took Il Lombardia, and Hayman’s Paris-Roubaix victory was one of the rides that will never be forgotten.
“Flanders is pretty exciting for us – it’s the one monument that this organization hasn’t won,” Hayman said. “It’s really nice to be going in with a bunch of guys that are committed with a leader that’s riding well.”
Will “Bling” deliver Sunday?
If he does, the bars of Belgium will take on an Aussie accent for the night.