Michael Matthews' start to the 2016 Tour de France could have been disastrous when the Orica-BikeExchange rider found himself caught up in the final kilometre crash in the run in to Utah Beach where Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) took the win and with it, his first career yellow jersey.
While the finish of stage 2 is better suited to Matthews capabilities, the 25-year-old was riding at the front of the peloton in anticipation of the sprint finish when Michael Morkov (Katusha) got tangled up and hit the tarmac with several riders falling as a consequence. With memories still fresh from his 2015 high speed Tour crash in which he broke four ribs, Matthews explained he was glad to escape with only minor damage.
"I am actually very lucky. I crashed at 70km/h, went over someone's bike and managed to surf it for 100 metres or so until I stopped. I only got a little round mark on the back of my leg so I am lucky," Matthews said of the near miss.
In Orica-BikeExchange's pre-race press conference, Matthews announced his intention to challenge for stage 2 but added the caveat the team would need to decide who they are riding for first.
"We haven't decided yet on leadership, but we all need to get through stage 1 first with the bunch time and set ourselves up. Then go on to try and win that stage 2. But we have got to see how the first stage goes and then I guess we'll talk in the morning of stage 2 and decide who's going to go for it," he said.
Sports director Matt White added he was pleased his riders made it through the chaotic stage unscathed with his team targeting stage wins in the first week with Matthews and Simon Gerrans.
"We thought that today was going to be fairly nervous and stressful in the bunch," explained White. "So our main objective was to stay up near the front and out of trouble. A lot of the nerves were nullified due to the windy conditions and we were able to achieve our aim.
"The guys rode really well today and we held our positions nicely. Michael (Matthews) got caught up in the crash just before the sprint, which was unfortunate, but thankfully he is ok."
With the possibility of the yellow jersey changing shoulders with the Cherbourg-Octeville finish expected to be too selective for Cavendish, White explained that he sees world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) in prime position to take yellow but he also expects his riders to challenge for the victory.
"The only real surprise today was that Sagan jumped and gained some time bonuses which makes trying to win the yellow jersey even harder, but we are certainly going to try," said White of the third place finisher in Utah Beach."There are no easy days at the Tour de France but tomorrow is a stage that suits us with the finish being slightly uphill after a lumpy and quite technical parcours."
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