Michael “Bling” Matthews is a sprinter racing with Rabobank from Canberra. Bling’s most noted victory is winning the under-23 Road Race in Geelong in 2010.
So far this year he has claimed a win in the Clásica de Almería. On the eve of the Tour of Poland, Bling offered some time to GreenEDGEFans and The Roar.
GreenEDGEFans: Michael, thanks very much for agreeing to this interview. Sorry oblivious question but your nickname is Bling. How did you get this nickname and who coined it?
Michael: I got my nickname Bling from one of my mates that I used to ride track with. His dad when he first saw me said “do you mind if I call you Bling”, because of all my necklaces, bracelets and had my hair picked up with all different colours this with my pants below my waist. I was not the typical cyclist.
GreenEDGEFans: You reply as Bling so that’s what it will be. You were picked-up by Rabobank as a stagiaire and now as a rider. Rabobank is a powerhouse in cycling and Robbie McEwen started professional racing with them. What was the transition like from Team Jayco-Skins to a big trade team?
Bling: It was a really big change starting with the language. They speak Dutch so that was one obstacle I had to learn but over time it got a lot better and living alone and having to get myself to racers and everything was really hard at the beginning, but the team helped me a lot with everything.
GreenEDGEFans: Team Jayco-Skins was a national team that has had considerable success in the under-23 races around the world. Your 2010 year for them was successful with several wins and places. How helpful was Jayco-AIS to developing you as a young professional athlete? Any stand out moments racing in Europe for the first time?
Bling: The Jaycoskins-AIS program is amazing I couldn’t have asked for anymore out of them. They brought us to Europe for six months of the year, we got to test out different racing all over Europe. We had an amazing house to live in that was so well organised with our own self contained apartments and massages two or three times a week and a garage under the apartments with a gym and a workshop for the bikes. What more could you want?
GreenEDGEFans You are famous for breaking into dancing, the “shuffle” being your signature move. Do you ever get a chance to go out and hit the clubs?
Bling: The shuffle is my special dance move. (I go to) clubs not so much, in my off season maybe once or twice. I mainly get to practice only in front of the mirror.
GreenEDGEFan: Rabobank is blessed with many sprinters and you are now working with Aussies Mark Renshaw and Graeme Brown, both experienced sprinters. Renshaw is known as “the best lead-out man in the business”. Could you make a comment on how valuable it is to have countrymen who are experienced and successful to ride with?
Bling: It was an amazing experience to get to work with Graeme Brown for two years. Every race I won was helped by him and I can’t thank him enough for that. With Mark I didn’t get to do to much…but when I did, just hearing what he had to say about the final kilometres and his knowledge of what to do was a really good experience for me.
GreenEDGEFans: As a known bunch-field sprinter, you have also finished second in the under-23 Tour of Flanders which is an exceptionally tough race, do you see yourself becoming a Flanders classics rider.
Bling: To be honest with you that was my second day on cobbles for a race but I really enjoyed it. I haven’t had the privilege of starting one as a professional yet but hopefully I will get to test myself next year and see how I go.
GreenEDGEFans: Graeme Brown has been mentioned by you as a good mentor when joining Rabobank, what are some of the things you learnt and would like to pass on to new young riders joining trade teams?
Bling: I think the main thing is just to be head strong. It is such a hard change in your life, especially for young Australians having to move their life overseas and do everything alone. But it is a lot of fun at the same time.
GreenEDGEFans: What do you do outside of cycling?
Bling: I play a lot of playstation but also love being outdoors walking and relaxing while shopping.
GreenEDGEFans: Are there any personal mentors or sponsors you would like to thank?
Bling: I would like to thank my family first for pretty much giving up their lives for me and then I would like to thank Glenn Doney, my first coach (and still is). And Brian Stephens, my AIS coach.
GreenEDGEFans: What are your favourite training rides at home in Canberra and in Europe?
Bling: In Canberra we have a ride called Cotter Urayarra. It’s at 40k loop. It is really nice. In Europe, I think my favourite ride is on the Amstel Gold course, because it’s near my house.
GreenEDGEFans: Where are you based in Europe currently? Is there any other country that would make you want to live in?
Bling: At the moment I’m Belgium but next year I think I will move to Monaco.
GreenEDGEFans: Seems to be the place to be. When is your next race?
Bling: Tour of Poland.
On a final note, GreenEDGEFans asked Bling about Rabobank’s preparation and chances of Mark Renshaw in the Tour de France he politely and thoughtfully replied no comment…smart guy.
Thanks very much Bling and happy pedalling.