Australia's Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) says in Cyclingnews' latest podcast that he was "devastated" when he was told that he hadn't been selected for this year's world championship road race that takes place in Innsbruck, Austria, later this month.
"It actually broke my heart a little bit when they called me to say, 'Yeah, you're not riding,'" Matthews tells Cyclingnews in Quebec, Canada, in our latest podcast.
Victory at either would go some way to making up for a season that has, until the recent BinckBank Tour, been one to forget for the 27-year-old from Canberra.
"I had a really rocky start to the year," Matthews admits in the podcast. "But since the BinckBank Tour [in August, where Matthews won a stage and finished second overall], it's been starting to get better."
Matthews broke his shoulder in a crash at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad back in February – his first race of the season – and despite returning to take seventh place at Milan-San Remo in mid-March, his year has been blighted by sickness.
In retrospect, Matthews tells Cyclingnews, he should have skipped the rest of the spring to recover properly and instead get ready for the Tour de France.
But things didn't go his way in France, with Matthews quitting the race due to illness after just four stages.
Matthews talks of the frustration that attempting to find form brings with it, and admits that he perhaps wasn't the best person to be around when he was trying to deal with the mental side of the downs that come with being a professional cyclist.
He also talks about discovering that he'd been riding much of the season with his saddle 8mm too high on his race bike, revealing just how much such details can affect riders at the very highest level.
But as he rectified his saddle height and recovered from illness, Matthews was dealt another blow just prior to the BinckBank Tour when Cycling Australia called him to say that he hadn't been selected for the Worlds squad for the road race in Austria.
"I'm a little bit devastated, to be honest," Matthews tells us. "I really look forward to putting on the Aussie jersey at the end of the season, and with one of my best friends, Richie Porte, being the leader this year, I really wanted to go there to support him with every bit of energy I had."
While the hilly road course is perhaps not ideal for Matthews, he's consistently proven that he can still climb, and has finished 14th, second, fourth and third in the past three Worlds road races.
"I'm pretty disappointed. I'm probably the second-most-consistent rider at the Worlds in the past four years," he says, suggesting that only three-time world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) has a better record.
"I got a phone call just before the BinckBank Tour to say that I wasn't going to be selected, and that they had better riders than me to do the job for Richie. I personally don't agree with that, but that's their decision and I have to accept it.
"Richie said to me that he was really pushing for me to go," Matthews says. "We trained together a lot in Monaco [where they both live] before the BinckBank Tour, and we were both doing one-hour climbs together, riding side by side and trying to attack each other, and really put each other into the hurt box.
"So if I can be there with Richie while he's doing those sorts of things, then I don't see why I don't get selected to race side by side with him in an Aussie jersey."
And if Cycling Australia suddenly changed their mind, or a place opened up on the Worlds squad because of another rider's illness or injury?
"My wife actually asked me that question the other day, too: 'What would you do if they called you up?'"
Hear his answer, and much more from Matthews, in the exclusive Cyclingnews podcast below.
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