Less than a week after finishing fifth at La Flèche Wallonne, Michael Matthews (Sunweb) provided another testament to his versatility with a winning ride in the prologue at the Tour de Romandie. The Australian was left gasping for air and unable to initially stand when he crossed the line in Fribourg but was soon on his way to the podium to celebrate his first win of the season.
Aside from his result in Flèche – and seventh in Milan-San Remo – Matthews had endured a difficult start to the season with a broken shoulder sustained in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and sickness disrupting his spring. His one-second win over surprise package Tom Bohli (BMC Racing) was just the tonic.
"I think that was the kick I needed to get my season back on track," Matthews said at his winner's press conference.
"After Flèche I was happy with the result, especially because for a sprinter it's not really normal to finish fifth. I always loved that race and wanted to give it a try, but coming here and getting the win today was what I really needed for my confidence," he said.
"It's my first win of the season so I'm just going to take a moment to enjoy today. Normally if I'm in a leader's jersey at a stage race I get too excited about the next days and forget about the feeling of actually winning."
Matthews' pure speed and raw power have always opened up opportunities for him in prologues, and he memorably beat Tom Dumoulin in the corresponding event at Paris-Nice in 2016. This result, however, was a major morale booster for the Sunweb rider.
"I knew that it was a good course that suited me. It was punchy, but with that cobbled climb I wasn't sure if I had the power to do it. I just gave it my best. My legs were good enough, just.
"This is actually pretty special because the last time I did Romandie was 2013. I did the prologue but then got sick and had to pull out. I didn't have a good memory from that but I came here with high hopes for the prologue. I didn't know how my legs would be after Liège-Bastogne-Liège but I did my best, and it was good enough."
Matthews is still feeling the effects from his shoulder injury. When asked about the fall he lifted his arms up and made a point of showing the media that his left arm still lacked full mobility.
"I'm still struggling with the energy and can't move it further than this," he said.
"I'm still in recovery mode. Maybe I came back too soon, with Milan-San Remo two weeks after the break. I've been sick since then, so it's been difficult."
With a victory under his belt Matthews has lifted the pressure of his shoulders. The rest of the Tour de Romandie is littered with opportunities for the multi-talented Sunweb ride, although stage 1 could prove the end of his spell in the yellow jersey.
When asked if his plan B for the prologue had been to finish high up and then aim for the yellow jersey the following day, Matthews replied: "That's a hard question. I just went full-gas today. Tomorrow will come. It's going to be quite difficult and there are six kilometers at eight per cent, with a lot of climbers here who will make it super difficult.
"I'll try and hold the jersey but it might be beyond my capabilities. But we'll try for sure, and we'll see what happens in the finish. I really want to enjoy this win with the team tonight, and then we'll see what the plan is for tomorrow."
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