Michael Matthews looking for gold as "the whole of Australia is behind me" at World Championships

Michael Matthews has shown terrific climbing form this year, and an equally strong sprint in the hilly races. He will head to the World Championships as a big favourite, and has talked to the media ahead of the race.

“The whole of Australia is behind me and that is an advantage that I have to grab with both hands to finish it," Matthews told Het Nieuwsblad days before what will be one of the most important days in his life. "It doesn't matter where I would become world champion, but then my palmares will be complete. I was already third, second, fourth and sixth in the elite, I won in the U23… I'm only missing one medal. It would be the icing on the cake that I've been dreaming about for weeks, wake up and think about at training."

He claims that his stage win at the Tour de France, where he won atop the Col de la Croix Neuve in Mende's summit finish "gave me a confidence boost,” and that “I now know that I can do it like this and then in one of the most important races of the year. It has opened a new door of opportunities.”

Such climbing ability will be useful in Wollongong, where the explosive ascent to Mount Pleasant will split the race frequently. He's finished second in both the Longwy and Lausanne hilltop finishes at the Tour showing he's still got his best explosiveness, and his recent second place - first out of the peloton - at the GP de Québec also proves he's got the form.

Racing in his home country will further have him motivated. He'll be between the main favourites, alongside the likes of Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogacar. “If you look at the other contenders, I can already say that it will be a difficult race. The other teams benefit from making the race tough. They are going to try to break things open early, so that it becomes everyone for themselves as soon as possible and we have a real wolf fight. We have to make sure we are ready to defuse any bomb they throw," he aknowledges.

The Australian team will have Jai Hindley, Ben O'Connor and Nick Schultz to better support him towards the end of the race. Asked again on Caleb Ewan's absence, Matthews responded: “Based on what he ultimately failed to make the selection, I can't say. Maybe it's because of how his season went or the meticulous information they have as their home country about the course in Wollongong. As riders, we have no say in that. There is no problem at all between Caleb and me."

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