Michael Matthews was best of the rest at the World Championships after he was nudged out for third place by Tom Boonen in the sprint finish of the men's road race. The pair locked elbows as they sprinted for the line but it was the former world champion that took the remaining spot on the podium.
Matthews admitted in the build-up to the race that the Doha circuit was not one that suited him well. It didn't do anything to quell the disappointment for the Australian, who opted to take some time away from the press and his team to reflect on the result. Matthews may have been feeling frustrated with the outcome, but his national coach Brad McGee was proud of the way he conducted himself.
"As far as the Australian campaign goes I don't have anything to say other than huge respect for Michael's effort in the sprint," Australian coach Brad McGee said. "He positioned himself well, helped by Mathew Hayman, and he's hit out at the right time and the right side for the win. It wasn't a line-scabbing bronze medal he was going for the win. I think that Australia will really respect that. It's all in, and we'll support him. I know that he's probably a bit pissed off.
"The fact that he went for the victory and the boys put him there that's the reason we can leave here proud of Australia… I haven't seen him but he's showing his level of maturity is increasing each year, and he's moved himself from the scene to deal with his disappointment."
Matthews and Australia had gone into the day hoping for a tough race to whittle down the group, and that is just what they got. As many had expected, the Belgians blew the race apart on one of the few corners in the opening stretch of the route. There was a mad scramble for position behind, and only 19 riders were lucky enough to find themselves on the right side of the divide and stay there.
"Every single person knew where you needed to be and you all don't fit on the same piece of road. It was always going to happen," explained Hayman, who was the only other Australia rider to make the split.
For a brief moment, Australia also had Luke Durbridge in the first peloton, but he was dramatically dispatched from the race when he was caught up in a crash after dropping his chain. "There's nothing more that we could have done," explained McGee.
"The boys responded well, and it's unfortunate that we missed Durbridge crashing out of that from that first group. We knew that two or three would be the maximum that you could shove into that group. I don't think any nation except for the Belgians could expect anything more than that."
With the experience of the Tour of Qatar, the expectation had been that there would be some splits in the crosswinds but most predicted that they would eventually come back together before the finish. For a long time, it appeared that this would be the case with the gap stuck in the void between 30 seconds and a minute. However, some clever tactics from the Belgians in the seconds group and a hard push ahead took the momentum out of the chase. What had been little more than a minute as they entered the course would extend to over three minutes with two laps remaining.
"We all suffered there. At one stage, when I saw that it was just a minute, I thought that there was a chance the second group would come back," said Hayman. "There were moments on the circuit when people committed, but we were all pretty toast by the time that we got there. I had cramps coming into town with 120km to go.
"It was pretty taxing on the body, but we were all in the same boat, we were all hot and bothered. There's only so much you can do to your body, and everybody knew that you had to wait and wait. The Belgians committed and hats off to them they rode a great race."
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