Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) said that he is not where he would like to be in terms of form, despite finishing eighth at Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday. Matthews looked in trouble on the lower slopes of the Mur de Huy, but clawed his way back up the group to make it into the top 10 – distancing climbers such as Romain Bardet and five-time winner Alejandro Valverde in the process.
It was clear that the effort had taken a lot out of Matthews, and after taking some time to catch his breath, he said that he had still been feeling the impact of a tough Amstel Gold Race at the weekend.
“In the end, I have to be happy with that. I want to win every race that I start, but sometimes you have to be realistic,” Matthews told Cyclingnews as he rode back towards the team’s bus. “I was feeling really tired from Amstel at the start. I tried to see what I could do in the race. The team tried to support me the best that they could, and it was up to me on the last two climbs to do what I do. I’m still not where I need to be but I think that a top 10 finish here with what has been going on with me is a pretty good result.”
It was a difficult start to the season for Matthews after he crashed out of Paris-Nice on the opening stage, suffering a concussion. It was just his second day of racing, following his debut at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He told former teammate Damien Howson, who had come over to pat him on the back after the race, that it had been difficult to build back up to racing again.
Originally, doctors thought that Matthews might be out for months due to his concussion, but he was back to racing again before the end of March at Milan-San Remo. With little training in his legs, it was a rough return but there have been some good performances along the way.
“I had a week completely off the bike after the first stage of Paris-Nice after my concussion. I only had three days of training on the road before San Remo that was difficult,” he explained. “Since then, I have had two nice victories in Catalunya and a handful of decent results in the Classics, but my original plan from the doctors was three months off the bike after my crash in Paris-Nice.
“I thought a top 10 was possible but you never really know on the day. The way the races have been raced at the moment, starting really hard from a long way out, it makes it super difficult if you’re not in your top shape. It puts you a little bit behind the eight ball straight away in the final, and from there it is quite mental to try and get to the finish the best way that you can.”
Matthews will remain in the Ardennes for Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a race that he finished fourth in 2017. He will be joined by teammate Tom Dumoulin, who has been training at altitude ahead of the Giro d’Italia next month.