By TANIA PHILLIPS
TOMORROW'S Tyalgum Cup Cycle race marks the start of a busy international season for talented Murwillumbah triathlete Paul Matthews.
Matthews, 21, is treating his first attempt at the 36km bicycle race as a serious hit-out for what is an important season.
Better-known for the multi-dicipline triathlon events, Matthews will take on some of Australia's top cyclists including Jason Phillips and Jonathon Cantwell. The 36km event stretches over a testing course from Tyalgum to Eungella and back.
The young athlete will race off scratch in the event along with Phillips and Cantwell, who are both off to Europe in February to race.
"Hopefully it will be a good hard race," Matthews said.
Matthews himself is heading to France later in the year for his second season in the French Grand Prix series. However before he gets to France, Matthews, a former world junior triathlon champion, has some major events to conquer here in Australia - starting this weekend.
On Sunday he will race in the Oceania Championships Under 23 triathlon titles at Penrith, Sydney.
"If I finish in the top top two in that race then I will qualify for the World titles," he said.
"I have two other chances to make the titles with qualifying events at Hobart on February 20 and Geelong on March 7.
"But a win in Penrith will take the pressure off."
A win in the event will earn him a spot in his third Under 23 World titles to be held in September in Japan. On his previous two trips to the world titles Matthews has finished 30th and 15th and he is looking for a much better showing this time.
However he is expecting a tough tussle just to get there with this weekend's race expected to be hotly contested.
"There will be a good field," he said.
"There are about three really good Kiwis, two good NSW competitors and at least three top Queenslanders."
Matthews has been back training with his original running coach, Brian Chapman of the Border Striders during his time home. He has also been working hard on his swimming. However in the past year it has been his bike leg that he has really concentrated on.
"The better you are on the bike, the less fatigued you get on the run," he said.