Comment

Save
Print

Canberra's Michael Matthews is a credit to his hometown and supporters

While it is still possible to debate about whether or not Michael Matthews is Canberra's greatest ever cyclist, let alone sporting talent, two things are in absolutely no doubt.

The first is that having won the coveted green jersey in this year's Tour de France the refreshingly modest, but doggedly determined, 26-year-old is probably the fittest athlete this city has ever produced.

The second is that few, if any, other Canberra sportspeople would have ever been watched performing at the absolute top of their game by upwards of four billion people around the world.

Matthews, who gave Australian cycling fans something to cheer about after Richie Porte crashed out of the contention for the yellow jersey during a horror descent on the ninth stage, has just completed one of the most arduous endurance events in sport.

He has ridden 3540km in the past three weeks, completing roughly 486,000 pedal strokes for an average speed over the ground in excess of 40km/h.

Matthews, who shrugged off unsportsmanlike behaviour by a disgruntled competitor after his second stage win, led the charge for Sunweb to become only the third Australian green jersey winner and the first Canberran since this category was established for the most consistent finisher more than 60 years ago.

Advertisement

While Matthews will be happy with the estimated $36,000, plus endorsements, that comes with the green jersey, nobody can doubt it was the sense of mission accomplished and appreciation of the recognition he has received that put the beaming smile on the young rider's face when he flashed the V for Victory sign in Paris.

He was in a very different place to troubled Australian tennis player, Bernard Tomic, who said in a television interview on Sunday night he wasn't in it for the love of his sport but rather the prize money and what that prize money could buy.

Matthews' modest acknowledgement that making this particular dream come true had been a roller coaster ride spoke volumes about the years of preparation needed to become a front runner in what is unarguably the largest annual sporting event on earth.

This year the tour was contested by 198 riders from 22 teams who had to complete 21 daily stages, which could be up to 222.5km long.

To just complete the tour marks a cyclist out as an outstanding athlete capable of pushing their body to the absolute limit.

Matthews not only completed the event, he took the green jersey by the convincing margin of 370 points to the 234 collected by his closest rival, German Andre Greipel.

This has put him on the world stage as a serious contender in his chosen sport for years to come.

His tale is an inspirational one that shows that with talent, resolve and the support of a strong sporting community such as Canberra's cycling fraternity a young athlete can make their dreams come true.