Michael Matthews was one of five Orica-GreenEdge riders to hit the deck during a nasty crash on stage 3 of the Tour de France on Monday. After a quick assessment by the Tour’s medical team on the scene, it was thought that the Australian had broken his ribs but further inspection later revealed a much less worrying prognosis.
It is now believed that Matthews is suffering from some minor contusions to his ribs and he will survive to fight another day. “I’m a bit sore. The skin off isn’t that bad, a lot of riders hit me at about 70 kilometres per hour into my ribs and my back. So that’s the real sore point at the moment,” explained Matthews ahead of the start of stage 4 from Seraing to Cambrai.
“It was really hard. I went to the ambulance and they said that I might have broken ribs but I wanted to finish the stage and see in the x-ray after what the damage is. They think it’s just some contusions to my ribs so hopefully in the next couple of days it’ll be ok.”
As anyone who has had a rib injury knows, the pain can make even the most innocuous of tasks a monumental challenge. Matthews took a very ginger approach to the steps down from the team bus as he made his way to talk to the media. While the ribs aren't broken, the injury is making moving around a much more laborious task and it made for a rough night’s sleep too.
“Through the night last night, I was really struggling to breathe. Every time I move it’s like someone is putting a knife in my chest,” he explained. “It wasn’t great. I actually woke up in the middle of the night having panic attacks thinking that I couldn’t breathe. That was quite scary but I was able to get a little bit of sleep. Enough to feel a little bit better today.”
Despite the pain, Matthews can count himself lucky, his teammates Daryl Impey and Simon Gerrans didn’t enjoy the same fortune. Impey was left with a broken collarbone while Gerrans has broken both his radius and ulna bones in wrist and both have been forced to pull out. Gerrans is on his way home where he will await surgery - although home for Gerrans is a moving target as his wife moves the family home from Monaco to Andorra at the same time.
For Matthews, stage 4 is just about surviving the pavé and then he can think about the up and coming days. The Orica rider will face the challenging prospect of the cobblestones, daunting for anyone nursing an injury such as his.
“It’s more in the head now to get through the stage, not waste too much energy and make the time cut and I’ll fight again tomorrow,” he said. “I’m actually quite lucky that it’s only in the last 30 kilometres that the cobbles really start so my goal is just to get to the cobbles and then check out and try to make it to the finish and make the time cut basically.
“Pieter Weening is going to stay with me, because he knows this area really well and he always rides at the back and that’s where I’ll be. He’ll always ride me into a good position if we need to move up. I have really good faith in him to help me out today.”