Matthew Richardson’s trip to London for the UCI Track Champions League finale was a homecoming of sorts. The 23-year-old grew up less than 40 miles from the Lee Valley Velodrome and had more family than ever in the stands cheering him on.
"About 10-15 people came and watched me race over the course of the two days,” he tells Cycling Weekly. “Obviously 95% of the crowd doesn’t know I’m originally from the UK.
"But it is what it is. I’m in an Australian skinsuit, so I can’t blame them.”
When Richardson was nine years old, he left his home in Maidstone, Kent and moved with his family to the other side of the world. “At that time, my whole life was in England,” he says. “Now I’ve lived more in Australia than I have in the UK, but the memories and sentimental value of home are still definitely there.”
“I went and visited my local primary school when I was here last week and it was exactly how I remembered it,” he adds. “It was a bit smaller, obviously, because I was a lot smaller.
“I could come back and I could drop myself from my house to the gymnastics place that I used to go to… and Tesco.”
In between all the nostalgia, Richardson’s focus was on racing. The Australian went toe-to-toe with 11-time world champion Harrie Lavreysen throughout this year’s Track Champions League series in a battle for the sprint league title. On Saturday night, it all came down to the final race.
“When I crossed that finish line and saw my wheel was in front, it was a very, very satisfying feeling,” he says. “I’m still pinching myself a little bit.”
The win rounded off what has been a near-perfect season for the 23-year-old. In August, he claimed two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, before travelling to Paris for the Track World Championships, where he took home a rainbow jersey in the team sprint.
“The only thing that could have made it better was winning the individual sprint at Worlds,” he says. “Other than that, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
“Chris Hoy said a few of the British coaches may be kicking themselves they never picked me up earlier.”
In fact, there was once a time when Richardson considered riding for Great Britain. "The thought has crossed my mind," he says.
"After Junior Worlds [in 2017], I was like ‘Is Cycling Australia going to see potential? Or are they going to leave me high and dry in Western Australia and not try and develop me?’ That’s what I was thinking. ‘What are my options if it doesn’t work out in Cycling Australia?’ But since then, it’s been Australia all the way.
“They’ve opened up a big door for me and given me all the opportunities I need. It’s been really good. So I’m not thinking about going back, that’s for sure.”
As a child, Richardson thought he might be a gymnast, until an elbow injury wrote off that career path and he turned to track cycling. “I remember watching Chris [Hoy] in the 2008 Olympics. I was in France on holiday and I remember watching him win gold in the keirin and my parents were like ‘That’s Chris Hoy! This is track cycling!’ And I was like ‘Sick!’”
As he progressed through the ranks in Australia, eventually joining the country’s Podium Potential Academy in 2019, Hoy remained one of his idols. So too did Jason Kenny, Britain’s seven-time Olympic gold medallist, who he met while competing in Tokyo last year.
“At the Olympics, I went and got Jason to sign my race number,” he says. “I’m just a fan of the sport, just people doing cool stuff. It still gets me excited.”
Now, like Hoy and Kenny before him, Richardson has established himself as one of the best track sprinters in the world. He likes to ride hard, so hard in fact that he’s often seen reaching for a sick bag after races.
If he wanted to, the Australian could switch his racing nationality at any point and start competing for his country of birth. "I've kept the [British] passport," he explains, but he doesn't expect British Cycling to come knocking.
“No one’s ever come to me,” Richardson says. “They probably know what the answer’s going to be already.”
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