Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) has returned to racing at the Tour of Alberta after taking a five-week period to recover from broken ribs sustained in a high-speed crash at the Tour de France in July.
The Australian sprinter is hoping to pick up a few stage wins at the Canadian 2.1 stage race, which kicks off on September 2 in Grande Prairie, and build his end-of-season form, likely ahead of the UCI Road World Championships held at the end of the month in Richmond, Virginia.
"The last five weeks since the Tour de France have been about just trying to recover as much as possible for the last part of the season," Matthews told the assembled media in an opening press conference at the Pomeroy Hotel in Grande Prairie.
Matthews had a successful early season with an opening stage win at Paris-Nice, where he also won the points classification. He went on to win the first stage at Pais Vasco and took the early leader's jersey, placed second at De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne and third at Amstel Gold Race.
He went on to help his team win the opening team time trial at the Giro d'Italia, where Simon Gerrans donned the first leader's jersey, before putting on the maglia rosa himself during stage 2 and then winning stage 3 while wearing it. He ended up withdrawing from the race ahead of the stage 14 time trial from Treviso to Valdobbiadene.
He restarted his season at the Tour de Suisse in June where he won stage 4, and in turn, confirmed his participation at the Tour de France. Although Matthews was expected to make a debut at the Tour in 2014, he crashed ahead of the race and had to forfeit his place to teammate Christian Meier.
His official debut at Tour de France this summer was almost equally as cruel. He started the race as one of the favourites for the sprints but was involved in a high-speed crashed during stage 3 and broke three ribs. The crash also took down four of his teammates, however, Matthews continued on despite his injuries and finished on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
"I think for my first Tour de France, it was really difficult, especially after last year, crashing before I even left for the Tour de France," Matthews said. "It hasn't been such a good race for me so far. Breaking three ribs in stage 3 and just getting through the race was quite difficult."
Following a recovery period of five weeks, Matthews is back on the hunt for stage victories at the Tour of Alberta, and there are potentially three stages for the sprinters; stage 2 in Grande Prairie, stage 5 in Spruce Grove and stage 6 in Edmonton. Orica-GreenEdge has also brought a strong team time trial squad and Adam Yates as their GC leader.
"I had a good training camp leading up to the Tour of Alberta this year," Matthews said. "We hope to have a good start with the team time trial. The team is looking really good and we hope to get some good results this week."
Matthews would not confirm his Worlds participation when asked by reporters at the Tour of Alberta press conference, only stating, "Australia will announce tomorrow." Matthews was duly announced as a co-leader for the Australian team at the Richmond Worlds later this month a few hours after the press conference.