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Matthews' first Strade Bianche ends with stitches

SIENA ITALY MARCH 05 Michael Matthews of Australia and Team Bikeexchange Jayco after being involved in a crash during the Eroica 16th Strade Bianche 2022 Mens Elite a 184km one day race from Siena to Siena Piazza del Campo 321m StradeBianche WorldTour on March 05 2022 in Siena Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) on the roadside after being caught up in the mass crash at Strade Bianche 2022 (Image credit: Tim de WaeleGetty Images)

Michael Matthews this year finally had his chance at Strade Bianche but the BikeExchange-Jayco rider certainly didn’t get the debut he had hoped for on the white gravel roads of the Tuscan hills.

A huge crash caught up many of the favourites at about 100km to go and, while initially the Australian rider thought he may be able to get through unscathed, he soon joined the likes of World Champion Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) on the ground.

“We came over a crest then downhill [into] a massive crosswind,” said Matthews. ”I was actually okay and avoiding some of the crashes and then someone ran into me really fast from behind and flipped me over my handlebars, so that was my Strade Bianche done which I’m really disappointed about.”

The wind was gusting as the race hit the fifth sector of gravel then part way through – as the Lucignano d'Asso section became exposed – chaos ensued with the falls beginning right near the front of the field. Even those that escaped the large crash were not safe, with solo riders also caught out as the wind whipped by and threw them off balance.

“I think the wind today was probably not normal for this area,” said Matthews. “We were just a bit unlucky in that section. Wrong place at the right time, unfortunately.”

For Matthews it meant another hiccup in a season which has already been hampered by COVID-19, with the rider returning at Strade Bianche after having not lined up since January.

“It would have been really a good result today. I was really looking forward to it. Feeling really good in the race, so just disappointed,” said Matthews.

“I’d love to still be in the race but I’m sitting in the bus with probably stitches in my chin and stitches in my knee, so not the greatest day.”

It's taken so long for the rider, who is in his 12th year as a WorldTour professional, to race Strade Bianche as usually his focus at this time of year has been on preparations for Paris-Nice. This time, though, Dylan Groenewegen will be spearheading the team's sprint hopes at the French race, while Matthews was planning to stay in Italy for Tirreno-Adriatico, starting Monday. 

There was no mention of whether or not his injuries would interfere with those plans. One thing we do know, however, is that while Matthews first Strade Bianche didn’t go tot plan, it won’t be his last.

“I’ll be back next year,” said Matthews in an Instagram post.

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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.