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Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge)
Australian makes return to racing after missing the Tour de France
Michael Matthews was certainly not expecting such a long delay to restart his season, after his crash on the eve of the Tour de France. On the Tour of Poland's stage 1, the Orica-GreenEdge sprinter rode nearly six hours from Gdansk to Bydgoszcz and was still at the finish at 8pm to complete an anti-doping test. The heat (up to 36°C) affected him after he has spent the past few days training in the cold and rain but, although he started enjoying the Polish Summer, the last kilometers of the stage turned into a mix of of wind, rain and crashes.
"I was not involved in any crash but I had to avoid at least fifteen riders," the Australian told Cyclingnews in a relaxed smile. "This is why I couldn't be part of the sprint."
Matthews crossed the line 7'47'' down on the Belarus winner Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r-La Mondiale), but like Maxime Monfort (Lotto Belisol) would say, "avoiding crashes today was a real victory!"
"I went to Poland to see where my form is at the moment and I feel I have quite good legs," added Matthews.
One month ago, the 23-year-old rising star of the sprint was unable to ride his bike and, to say the truth, more or less depressed after he withdrew before competing into his first Tour de France.
Because of a detour on a road, he hit a speed bump and fell, suffering cuts and abrasions down his left arm and leg. Matthews also required six stitches in his palm.
"It was my real goal in my career to make the Tour de France in the condition that I was in and it was taken away from me," says the Australian, who wore the pink leader's jersey in the Giro d'Italia for six days in May. "In the condition where I was, the decision [not to start] was quiet heart breaking."
However, Matthews quickly overcame his disappointment by spending a week off the bike at his home base in Monaco, alongside his fiancée. "It's the first time I've had to skip a very important goal so it was not easy to deal with the situation, but I tried to have some good time at home."
The sprinter notably killed his free time by watching some movies and, in a very professional way, by carefully watching at the Tour de France on television. His recovery included an opportunity to follow the sprints and to scrutinize his rivals' assets and weaknesses.
Following this rest period, Matthews went back to his customized-Giro pink bike on the 11th July, on a turbo trainer. At the end of July, he moved to Livigno, Italy, where he could enjoy climbing.
"Since my crash, I had good three weeks of training, but when you come from altitude it can take a few days [before reaching your top form]," Matthews said.
The Australian officially targets the Tour of Poland like a trial only, even if he's potentially the fastest rider in the peloton alongside Sacha Modolo (Lampre Merida).
His next stop will be the Vuelta a España, an event where he claimed two stages in 2013. But this year the Spanish race will be mostly a compensatory session and final preparation for Matthews's ultimate goal: the Road World Championships, which will take place end of September in Ponferrada, Spain.
"I think am on the right track for the Worlds," Matthews says.