Still, that didn’t necessarily mean a move away from Sunweb and Mitchelton was possible. This could only have happened if Matthews had managed to get out of his Sunweb contract and if Mitchelton had been able to free up funds to afford a rider they lost four years ago.
The turning point came when Adam Yates informed Mitchelton-Scott of his desire to leave for Ineos, and when – almost by accident – Mitchelton was informed that Matthews might be available.
Until then, Mitchelton’s management had offered Adam Yates a contract extension for the next two years, just as they had done with his twin brother Simon. However, the lure of more money and a change of scenery had turned Adam’s head.
Suddenly, Mitchelton had a hole in his list to fill. Jack Haig had already signed for Bahrain McLaren, so trying to improve his conditions was a waste of time, and with Mikel Nieve and Esteban Chaves already tied for another 12 months, the rest of the team’s heavy hitters were already in budget.
The market didn’t offer much when it comes to big leaders, and Mitchelton had been busy securing his own near-term future when Maximilian Schachmann – a pilot they briefly reviewed – chose to stay in Bora. Hansgrohe.
If Mitchelton was to step into the transfer market for a team leader, they had to be the right kind of driver and the right kind of talent that would instantly fit into their culture.
In that sense, Matthews was perfect. Between 2013 and 2016 he was one of their team managers and his track record kept expanding as he scored a number of impressive victories, including a Tour de France stage at Revel in 2016.
However, during this time, her relationship with Simon Gerrans had deteriorated to the point of no return, forcing separation.
The two are very different characters, with very different ways of doing things, but since they both aimed at similar races, there was always a clash of personalities. It came to the surface when the couple raced together for Australia in the 2015 World Championships in Richmond and Matthews said Cycling that he and Gerrans had faced off in the final sprint. Matthews would take the money behind Peter Sagan, but the damage was done and laid bare for all to see.
Gerrans had a contract with the team from 2017, and with Sunweb throwing suitcases of cash and, more importantly, the ability to lead alone in sprints and one-day races, Matthews jumped on the opportunity to leave. The move was already almost completed in June of this year.
The move was far from a failure for the Australian, who won the green jersey and two Tour stages the following year, before resuming both Canadian WorldTour races a year later. He consolidated his place as one of the best riders in the world.
However, Sunweb’s decision to leave Matthews out of his Tour de France roster and the rescheduled Spring Classics was baffling. Matthews is not only the team’s most prominent rider, but many stages of this year’s Tour de France appear to be perfectly suited to his characteristics.
Form was there too, with the 29-year-old finishing third at Milan-San Remo with just one functioning hand after scraping the wall at Poggio, followed by a stunning victory in the Bretagne Classic last week.
If we also consider that the Giro d’Italia and so many other races that stretch until the end of September and October risk being canceled due to concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, then it does not. is not impossible to envision a scenario in which all the Matthews race targets are wiped out.
Sunweb are far from a poor team – they have won eight times this year and may well have a successful Tour de France – but their decisions sometimes seem bizarre.
Once Matthews was able to follow the likes of Marcel Kittel, Tom Dumoulin and Warren Barguil in exiting his Sunweb contract, only one destination felt appropriate.
Selling the idea to Gerry Ryan was the easy part for Mitchelton’s management, and the team hierarchy even considered modeling a scenario in which the two Yates brothers stayed and Matthews came on board. But in early August, when the team discovered that Matthews could potentially be interested in returning and that Adam Yates was likely to leave, it didn’t take long for the deal to be delayed. line.
Matthews’ cover works on several levels. He has a close relationship with Ryan, which is obviously important, but his nationality is secondary to the fact that Matthews can easily embrace the culture of the team. He understands what the team is and we must not forget that he left amicably in 2016. In fact, he was still winning races for the team, even after signing with Sunweb at the time. of the Dauphiné of that year.
He returns to Mitchelton as a more complete pilot and with more experience, patience and knowledge. At the same time, he’s hungry to win, and with Mitchelton’s backing the best is sure to come.
Going forward, the team maintains its dynamic caliber of stage racing with Simon Yates, Chaves, Nieve and the up and coming Hamilton, while Matthews adds freshness to its one-day core. Unlike a pure sprinter, as they experienced with Caleb Ewan, Matthews doesn’t need a dedicated starter train, and his climbing skills mean he can fend for himself and reconcile himself as a ‘assistant if and when his services are needed.
Matthews’ move to Mitchelton was all about timing and an element of luck, but it already looks like one of the best transfers of the summer.