Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) climbed onto the third step of the Milan-San Remo podium for the second time in his career on Saturday afternoon, with his right arm wrapped in bandages indicating that all had not gone smoothly on the road to the Ligurian coast.
However, it was his blood-splattered shoes that told the real story about how hard he scraped against the wall on the climb of the Poggio, and how he fought the pain to win the sprint just two seconds behind Wout Van Aert and Julian Alaphilippe.
"I think winning the sprint here at Milan-San Remo is pretty good because my hand is pretty bad," Matthews said in the mixed zone after the finish.
The Australian explained what happen in the moment of adrenaline, pain and speed on the twisting climb of the Poggio as a group of 20 riders tried to chase down the attacking duo of Van Aert and Alaphillippe.
"On the second part of the Poggio, I wanted to attack," he said. "There were a couple of other guys in front of me who were also attacking and I wanted to go. But then the door closed in front of me and I went against the wall. I scraped my hand and shoulder along the wall."
Van Aert and Alaphilippe had a seven-second lead as they made their way through the streets of San Remo. The chasing pack, including Matthews, could see them just up ahead on the long straight road to the red flag of the final kilometre.
Matthews' teammate Tiesj Benoot did a huge turn on the front to try to close them down but they remained just out of Matthews' reach in the Via Roma sprint.
"I couldn't hold my handlebars properly, but I knew that my team had done such a great job that I didn't want to give up. It was all or nothing for me in the sprint, to see what I could get out of it after what happened," Matthews said.
"I wanted to win and I think I had the legs to do it but this is racing: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Being on the podium was a nice reward."
Matthews can be satisfied with a podium spot to kick off his season restart, and he'll spend much of the remainder of the 2020 season in Italy too, racing Il Lombardia next weekend before tackling Tirreno-Adriatico in September ahead of a first Giro d'Italia participation in five years in October.
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