Stage eight [Saturday] was the sort of day that we knew it wouldn't be possible to keep the pink jersey but I had a fun day, just enjoying it as best I could. I gave it a go on the last climb to try and stick with it out of respect for the jersey, not just to sit up and pedal in.
So I gave it a go, but I knew in the back of my head it wasn't going to happen. And after the eight days we've been committing ourselves on every single stage, it's been a long Giro for us so far and we're all a little bit tired and I think we're ready for the rest day on Monday.
There's a few more stages that suit us, so we'll be saving energy to go for those stages. The boys have worked so hard that they deserve a rest. We'll just try and lose as much time as possible on the stages that don't suit us and then the stages that suit us, we'll go full gas on them. We're not giving up now, we'll keep on fighting all the way to the finish and try to have fun in this amazing bike race.
I still can't believe what we've done this week, I was trying to remember this morning [of stage nine] to recap all that we'd achieved, we definitely didn't come in expecting to get so much. This is definitely a week that my team, myself, and the whole organisation around Orica-GreenEdge will never forget.
The toughest day for me, personally, was probably the first day I had the jersey, in Belfast [on stage two]. There was a lot of media stuff I had to do, doping control and so on, on the day I took the jersey, that night I didn't get to sleep until maybe half past one in the morning doing press conferences and all that.
So I was really tired the next day and I crashed on the way to Dublin [on stage three] too, and it was raining and really cold and in the final I wasn't able to contest the sprint. That was probably my worst day, too, my first full day in pink. I got all the bad luck out of the way that day and hopefully it was good luck from then on.
Winning at Monte Cassino was something special. I was starting to get the feeling I was just keeping the [leader's] jersey for the team and I really needed to show that I deserved the jersey and that I'm really respecting the jersey by going 110 percent each day, so I wanted to get the stage win. And when I got it, it really sunk in that I was actually good enough to be wearing the jersey at the moment and doing it proud at the same time, for my team and for myself. And getting that stage win was like the proof that Orica-GreenEdge does deserve the jersey for eight days, too."
As for sorting out the situation in [stage four to] Bari [where Matthews was called on to make decisions, as race leader, over the stage's eventual semi-neutralisation] I just went into the stage expecting havoc. So I didn't plan on telling the leaders [of the other teams] anything, so I went in with an open mind. But then all the big teams and really experienced riders came up to me saying this, that, and whatever.
It was quite difficult, as this is only the second Grand Tour of my life, and my first Giro, to have to put up with all these people yelling in my ears about what they wanted to do. I was copping a lot of stuff. In the end, I think it worked out as it should have, but some other teams acted a little bit inappropriately about what was going on. We should have all just said at the start of the race, 'obviously the rain is coming, let's do this no matter what' because we knew it was going to be wet and slippery and there would have been a lot of crashes if we'd raced the race normally.
So I think in future when we know exactly 100 percent it's going to be such a crazy final in such a short race, we need to say 'all right, this is the idea and this is what we're sticking with', not make a decision when we get to the course [finishing circuit], or 'we'll see in two laps' or 'we'll see in three laps', because that way it just creates more and more hassle for us and for the people that are watching it, and I think it just creates bad media.
As for the maglia rosa jerseys [of Giro race leader] and what I'll do with them, I have no idea. I'm hoping to get my pink bike from Scott and I think I'll frame the pink jersey, signed by all the boys and hang the whole lot on the wall and not touch it and just remember the amazing memories of this Giro 2014. It's been truly a dream come true, it's still unbelievable for me at the moment.
Excited to get underway for first Italian Grand Tour
To say that I'm excited about lining up in my first Giro d'Italia would be an understatement. I love Italy as a country: the culture, the food, the landscape and I can't wait to race a three-week tour in such a beautiful place. And I am feeling good after a final training period tailored particularly for this Grand Tour. It's an honour for me to be part of this amazing and famous race with this team.
This isn't my first Grand Tour and that aspect helps when it comes to defining expectations. I think the hardest thing about anyone's first time in a Grand Tour — and mine was the Vuelta a España last year — is that you don't know what to expect. Now I am going in with more confidence, and knowledge of how my body adapts to a three-week race. Still, the Giro is a special race which you can't compare to Vuelta.
In terms of my racing schedule this year, I always thought that Giro would be really good preparation for the Tour de France, so when the boss Matt White asked me if I want to ride the Giro, I was more than happy. It was not on my schedule originally, but I didn't need to change too much around in order to focus.
As for my general form, I got some rest after Amstel in Austria, and then I started to train again for Giro. I also did some particular TT training sessions in order to get ready for the TTT in Ireland. My coach Brian Stephens also prepared a training program which was focused on the stages which suit me at Giro. I feel good and ready for the next challenge.
The next few days are going to be filled with questions asking me which stages I'm going to target. To be honest I think that there are few stages which I can aim at and suit me. This year I am focusing more on stages with complicated and harder finishes than just pure sprint stages. On the other hand, it will be great to gain more experience in flat stages against the likes of [Marcel] Kittel and I think I can be up there in those stages, too. Racing in Italy is always special and different and as I said, this will be great part of preparation for the TDF and other races during this year.
The team coming to Giro is full of TT specialists, which is why we're going in as favourites to win in Belfast. The pink jersey is our main goal.
Luckily a lot of these guys double as key links in the lead-out train, so it's perfect for me. We have lots of strong guys that are also experienced in the leadouts, like Svein Tuft and Brett Lancaster. I'm also happy to have Mitch Docker who raced with me in the Vuelta last year. We worked perfectly together. I can't wait to race with super selection of boys during this year's Giro.
How far can I go in this year's Giro is a huge question but one I can't really answer just yet. It's a three week race, a real war of attrition and one that has to be respected. I've never ridden the Giro before, so I can't tell exactly how physically and mentally hard this race is. I would love to finish it, but you never know how you will feel or what might happen. Either way, I'm going to give it my all.
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Michael Matthews' 2014 Giro d'Italia Blog
Follow Australia's hottest sprint talent Michael Matthews as he embarks on his debut in the 2014 Giro d'Italia. The Orica-GreenEdge rider will be writing a blow-by-blow account on his race for Cyclingnews.