Michael Matthews wins stage twenty one of the 2013 Tour of Spain. Photo: Graham Watson
Australia has found its successor to Robbie McEwen and the Tour de France green jersey, with the three-time sprint champion declaring Canberra's Michael Matthews could win the points classification of a Grand Tour event in the future.
And if ''he has a good day'' McEwen rated Matthews as a medal chance at the Road World Championships in Italy next week.
Matthews sprinted to victory in the final stage of the Vuelta a Espana on Sunday, one of the three big races along with the Tour and the Giro d'Italia, his second stage win in his Grand Tour debut.
McEwen said it was ''massive'' for the 22-year-old to ride so well in his first Grand Tour, especially winning the last stage after three weeks in the saddle.
He said Matthews was developing into a ''great classics rider'' and would be ideally suited to the one-day Tour of Flanders.
Fellow Canberran Mathew Hayman will join Matthews at Orica- GreenEDGE next year and McEwen said Hayman would be the perfect mentor for the one-day races.
Hayman was Team Sky's classics captain this year, but will join the Australian team in 2014.
McEwen predicted Hayman and Matthews would become a formidable duo during the classics.
''He wore the points jersey in Spain for quite a while. Of course, with all the climbing stages it wasn't realistic to target it overall, but you see [Peter] Sagan won the green jersey at this year's Tour on one stage win,'' McEwen said.
''But he was super consistent and he took points in the flat sprints, against the likes of [Mark] Cavendish, [Andre] Greipel and [Marcel] Kittel. He got through a lot of the hillier, hard stages and got points, which is something [Matthews] is also capable of so he could certainly be a contender for points jerseys in Grand Tours for years to come.''
McEwen said Matthews also had some climbing ability, which would allow him to remain in contention before unleashing a sprint finish.
Which also meant the 22-year-old wouldn’t be a ‘‘worker’’ and instead would be ‘‘protected’’ by the rest of the nine-man Aussie team in Italy.
And if Matthews is feeling fit after the Vuelta, which McEwen said would be like a ‘‘massive training camp’’ for the worlds, then the ‘‘sky was the limit’’.
‘‘I think he’s a realistic chance of bagging a medal if he has a good day,’’ he said.
‘‘That’s the hard thing, coming out of his first Grand Tour you’re not sure how his body’s going to react, but if he has a good one the sky’s the limit in the world championships.’’