Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) headed home from Milan-San Remo with a huge bandage on his right elbow but his disappointment at missing out at a shot for victory seemed far more painful and will no doubt leave some deeper scars.
Matthews was fortunate to escape with just superficial wounds after he crashed at speed as the peloton accelerated on the approach to the Cipressa climb. He bravely got up, ignored the pain and chased, with blood running down his arm and onto his handlebars. He apparently made contact with the back of the peloton at one point could only finish 59th in a chase group at 36 seconds.
"Obviously I'm devastated," said Matthews at the finish. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the team rode really well all day and everything was going perfectly.
"This was everything, this was my world championships for the start of the season. I was flying today and had no real troubles all day. I was really looking forward to making a good finale, it's really unfortunate that a crash stopped me from doing that."
A dozen or so riders were involved in the crash, including Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff), Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) and Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida). The riders were packed tight at the time. Mathews was near the front of the peloton but went into a concrete gully and wall on the right side of the road. He suggested that some riders were taking far too many risks.
"I was fourth wheel in the bunch and for some reason one of the teams wanted to go from the right of the road to the left and overlap the wheel of in front of me. I came down at 50 or 60km/h," he explained.
"I think it's just a random incident and I was unlucky. I was up front all day, I was never in a bad position, so I can't be unhappy about my positioning or the team. It was just unsafe. I wish everyone could ride a bit more as a group and with a bit more safety in numbers. It should have been the win in the end but unfortunately it wasn't our day."
Matthews arrived back at the Orica-GreenEdge team bus with his lower left arm covered in blood, it had also covered his handlebars as he had tried to chase back onto the peloton that was tantalisingly ahead of him even on the Poggio.
"I think the adrenaline from the crash was still going through me as I got back on the bike. I tried to salvage what I could. The team had done a perfect job to put me in the position I was in at the time, so I chased to try to see what I could out from it," he explained. "The cuts on my arm are superficial. I can't feel it at the moment because the disappointment is so painful."
Matthews seemed devastated but a few words indicated his crash would not break him. "I will be back," he said.
Matt White: "You can't let shit get you down"
Orica-GreenEdge directeur sportif Matt White spoke to his riders on the team bus immediately after the race, making sure they quickly bounced back and moved on from the crash and the lack of a result at Milan-San Remo.
"It's disappointing but it's only the start of spring, you can't let shit get you down," he said with his usual Aussie grit.
"They rode well, they rode perfectly but you can't control everything. It is what it is. This has been Michael's big goal since the world championships, It's very disappointing for him and Milan-San Remo only comes around once a year but we've got some other goals with him this spring. He's got two weeks off. He'll be okay. I think we nailed his preparation for a second season in a row. He knows how to get ready for this race and so I think we've done very well."
White has years of experience of Milan-San Remo, both as a rider and as a directeur sportif.
"It's San Remo. Things can go very bad, very quickly, or you can get a dream run," he said summarising the usual hectic finale in a few words.
"It's a very nervous race, nothing has changed and nothing will change with this race. It's one of the easiest races to finish but one of the hardest races to win."