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Shimano, through thick and thin

Our new series of articles, Blue Blooded, features interviews with pro road cyclists who all have one thing in common: Shimano running through their veins.

We kick off by talking to Australian pro cyclist Michael Matthews, member of Orica-GreenEDGE and a lifetime user of Shimano components and gear. We wanted to find out exactly what it means to him to be part of the Shimano family.

Rising star

Matthews is young, just 24, but his star is rising fast. After winning the 2010 UCI Road World Championships Men’s Under-23 Road Race on his home turf, he signed as a pro with the Rabobank Team just a few months later and switched to Orica-GreenEDGE in 2013. An excellent sprinter and climber alike, his list of accomplishments in just five years as a pro is impressive and explains why many pundits are pegging him as a future podium contender. He won stages in the Vuelta a España in 2013 and 2014, the Giro d’Italia in 2014 and 2015, and the Tour de Suisse in 2015, and he came second twice in the Brabantse Pijl classic, third in Milan–San Remo and the Amstel Gold Race this year, and the list is growing.

Asked when Shimano entered his career, Matthews says that he can’t remember not riding with Shimano. ‘I’ve always ridden Shimano, ever since I started cycling. All my bikes have had Shimano groupsets, and I’ve always had Shimano shoes… It’s been there my whole life really, and that’s something really special. You know every time you get on your bike that Shimano products are going to work. When you put your shoes on you know they’re going to be perfect and exactly the same, whether you’re wearing your spare shoes or your race shoes. That’s the main thing: no extra stress about something you shouldn’t have to be worrying about. And the performance it gives you is really incredible.’

Whenever you need something, Shimano’s at your doorstep

Shimano wants the riders it sponsors to feel like they are members of a family that will be looked after through thick and thin, a sentiment Matthews confirms. Whenever you need something, ‘Shimano’s at your doorstep. The service is really incredible. At the races, if you feel you need to try a smaller pair or a bigger pair of handlebars, or if you need to change your cranks for some reason, Shimano always has someone there to support you. It helps a lot in the big races. If you crash and need something replaced on your bike, Shimano always has backups at the races, and that’s really helpful when you have a sponsor who’s willing to keep you going and get the best performance out of yourself.’

‘Shimano’s at your doorstep. The service is really incredible. At the races, if you feel you need to try a smaller pair or a bigger pair of handlebars, or if you need to change your cranks for some reason, Shimano always has someone there to support you. It helps a lot in the big races.

Speaking of performances, the one thing missing on Matthews’ list is the Tour de France. Like life, pro cycling has its ups and downs. Despite the many positives so far in Matthews’ young career, the 2014 Tour de France was a massive disappointment. Matthews was forced to pull out just before the start of the Tour after a training accident. ‘I don’t really have fond memories of the Tour de France last year, so this year I’ve gone with a bit of a different approach. I’ve done all the hard work, but I’m not putting too much emphasis on the race itself. I really want to get in there in the best shape possible and let’s see what happens.’

And yet, as a cyclist who has tasted victory, Matthews must have set himself certain expectations. ‘Yeah, I’ve targeted a few stages in the Tour. There’s a few that really suit me well, and I’ll be aiming for them 110%.’ If he needs support, he knows where to find it and what it means as a pro rider to be part of a family. ‘I’ve really increased my ability on the bike, and that comes down to things like your sponsors and the product you’re using. If you’ve got the best products, it makes it a lot easier to get the best out of yourself. It makes an active difference.’

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