Michael Matthews came to the Tour de Suisse looking for his second win of the year and while the BikeExchange-Jayco rider may have taken some satisfaction from standing on the podium earlier in the race, there was no hiding that stage 4's close runner-up slot was a cause of frustration, not celebration.
The difference when Matthews came third on stage 2 was not only that the victory had already been swept up before the sprint – with a solo win from Andreas Leknessund of Team DSM – but it also was not a day the 31-year-old had been "100% targeting" as there were better stages ahead.
Wednesday’s 191km stage from Grenchen to Brunnen was one of those better stages and, before the last corner at least, it had looked to be playing out to plan.
Matthews had the win in his sights as he came toward the line in a reduced bunch of 60 after holding on over the category 2 Sattel climb, with its summit just 14km from the finish.
“I fought really hard to get over the final climb, I had a teammate with me to pace me over the very top and bring me into the sprint, but I was just bombarded into the final corner and unfortunately, I couldn’t launch my sprint like the way I wanted to,” said Matthews.
“I had to start my sprint really early, I think with around 400 or 500 to go to get back to actually fight for the victory. I had really good speed, I had really good legs, but just made a silly mistake through the final corner.”
That long sprint to the front meant that while he was rapidly closing on Daryl Impey, he was left short of time to catch the Israel-Premier Tech rider and had to settle for second.
Matthews may have been quick to congratulate Impey, once a teammate on the Australian squad, but it wasn't an easy near miss for BikeExchange-Jayco.
"We’re disappointed to miss out in such a close sprint at the end there,” Mat Hayman, sport director at BikeExchange-Jayco, said.
“It was really hard to pick the stage today, it was touch and go whether or not the sprinters would make it over the final climb. In the end, it was select, not all the sprinters made it over and it’s good to see Michael’s form, but when you miss out on the win by that much, it’s disappointing."
The second place on stage 4 was Matthews' third time on the podium this year and it was also his eighth stage top-3 at the race across the seven times he has lined up, with two of those podium places being the top step.
The 2022 Tour de Suisse, which Matthews is also using as preparation for the Tour de France, is now through to the halfway point. Still with the key climbing stages and a time trial ahead the opportunities to add another win to the tally are fast running out, even for a sprinter that climbs as well as Matthews.
Stage five from Ambri to Novazzano packs in nearly 3000m of climbing across 193km with the category 2 ascent of Monte Ceneri peaking at 66km into the stage and then three repeats of the category 3 Pedrinate in the final 70km of racing. Then it gets even tougher on stage 6, the queen stage, with the HC climb of Nufenenpass coming about halfway through the 177.5km route, which has another HC climb to the finish at Moosalp (18km at 8%).
Stage 7 from Amri to Malbun is the final day in the mountains, delivering a gruelling pass early in the 194.6km and also throwing in some more climbing before another HC summit finish at Malbun.
The race then finishes on Sunday with a mostly flat 26km time trial starting and finishing in Valduz.
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Simone is a degree-qualified journalist that has accumulated decades of wide-ranging experience while working across a variety of leading media organisations. She joined Cyclingnews as a Production Editor at the start of the 2021 season and has now moved into the role of Australia Editor. Previously she worked as a freelance writer, Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and as a correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg. Cycling was initially purely a leisure pursuit for Simone, who started out as a business journalist, but in 2015 her career focus also shifted to the sport.