Michael Matthews close to sign with Giant-Alpecin

Australian sprinter Michael Matthews appears ready to leave Orica-GreenEdge for a new stable in 2017, with Giant-Alpecin the leading contender for his signature.

The 25-year-old is currently racing at the Tour de Suisse with a view to the Tour de France, which he is on a long-list for following a career debut at the event last season.

“The only thing that I can firmly say concerning Michael is that there are obviously, for a top rider like him, several teams interested. All options, staying or leaving, are still open at this moment,” Dries Smets, his agent, said. “With the Tour de Suisse (underway) and the Tour de France around the corner, Michael has chosen to focus on these sports goals before taking any decisions regarding his future.”

Matthews has stepped up as a leader, marked five individual Grand Tour victories and become more competitive across the Ardennes Classics in his four seasons with ‘home’ outfit Orica-GreenEdge.

Giant-Alpecin would not comment on its transfer activity but with its classics specialist John Degenkolb and one of his team-mates linked to Trek-Segrafedo for next year, the German-registered outfit could be in the market for a new marquee man. Orica-GreenEdge sports director Matt White, speaking from the Criterium du Dauphine, said his team did not have a dramatic number of transfers in and out this season.

“I don’t expect too much change to our roster for 2017, not as many as this year that’s for sure,” White said. “It’s being worked out with management. My concern is to take the best team to the Tour to win a stage, and the composition of the team is what’s best for that group and our chances.”

Matthews marked two top 10 finishes on race debut at the Tour last year. The former under-23 road world champion has green jersey aspirations but White said that would not be a team goal in July.

“He got experience at the Tour last year but the goal for the team is to win a stage,” he said. “With who and how we do it – that will be decided when the team is finalised.”

Matthews is on a long-list that also includes but is not limited to Mathew Hayman, Simon Gerrans and burgeoning climber Adam Yates. Orica-GreenEdge is also awaiting a ruling from the UCI on Simon Yates’s Terbutaline case as to his team sanctioned eligibility to race.

“Once we finalise the team, the goal for the Tour team is to win a stage. There will be no other objectives. There will be no one riding general classification, no one riding for jerseys, unless someone falls into them,” White said. “We haven’t got anyone for the pure flat sprint stages so were targeting those intermediate and mountain stages.”