One would excuse Michael Matthews if he was ready to hang up his wheels and take a break after a hugely successful 2017 season, but the Australian was an unlikely starter in Il Lombardia, racing in support of his Sunweb teammates and gearing up for the Tour of Guangxi, his final event of the year.
It was only the second time that Matthews has started the Race of the Falling Leaves, a curious choice for a sprinter, especially with a fast-man's race on tap in Paris-Tours the next day, but he explained that he was in Italy to work for the teammates who helped him to two stage wins in the Tour de France and the overall points jersey, in addition to stages of the Pais Vasco and Tour de Suisse.
"After all the support the team's given me this year to do all the races I wanted to do, it's nice to come back here and support the guys who have supported me," Matthews told Cyclingnews in Bergamo.
"I also have to race China in two weeks, so it's good just to keep the legs open in these races to keep going through to China."
After his surprise win in the green jersey competition in the Tour, Matthews continued to post strong results, including third at RideLondon and the GP de Quebec, and, after being part in Sunweb's victory in the team time trial World Championships, he came third in the road race behind Peter Sagan and Alexander Kristoff.
Matthews did not finish Il Lombardia or Tre Valli Varesine, and said the variable form is typical for the time of year.
"It's up and down at the end of the season, you have your good days and bad days," he said.
But the year has been amazing for his Sunweb team, which posted the overall victory in the Giro d'Italia with Tom Dumoulin, two more stage wins in the Tour de France and the mountains classification by Warren Barguil, and a fourth place overall in the Vuelta a Espana by Wilco Kelderman. The team showed its cohesion by winning both the men's and women's team time trial in Bergen.
"I think it's something the team's been working towards for such a long time now to have a season like this. For it all to come to a close the way it has, it's been pretty special," Matthews said.
The Australian hinted that next year's schedule might look a little different, and after a fourth place in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, we could see Matthews shifting his goals more toward the Ardennes.
"I think we'll try to set the goals differently next year and see what else we can achieve, maybe not go for the same goals again but for something different," he said.