• Can Michael Matthews refind that winning feeling? (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
He had good reason to quit as many did but Michael Matthews says what he endured this July will only make him stronger, writes Sophie Smith.
By
Sophie Smith

8 Aug 2015 - 10:05 AM 

Michael Matthews was a victim of a crash-marred beginning in his debut Tour de France, but felt certain that, if he got through, it would better prepare him for remaining season objectives including the UCI road world championships.

The 24-year-old has identified the September world titles in North America as a major goal, which he was thinking of during the Tour he rode with bruised ribs and abrasions following a massive high-speed pile-up in stage three.

"I've been told by a lot of different people that it's a course that really suits my style of rider. That's been a really big focus of mine since last year's worlds that didn't suit me so well, but this year it seems to be perfect."

"I've got a big second half of the season coming up so it was nice to get through (the Tour) to work towards that also," Matthews told Cycling Central. "Instead of just going home and then changing my race programme, I stayed, getting the kilometres in my legs, and the racing."

Matthews feels he will be ready for a series of one-day races and the world titles after the Tour and his August wedding to partner Katarina Hajzer.

The Tour, which Matthews was unable to start last year following a training accident in the immediate lead-up, was a different experience for the Australian accustomed to winning early in three-week races.

Matthews has won seven Grand Tour stages, five individual and two team time trials, at the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, during his three years at Orica-GreenEdge.

"I've won a stage in the first week of all my Grand Tours; the Tour was the total opposite," he said.

"It was nice to experience this side also because when you do win a stage in the first week, you don't take it for granted as much."

Matthews did not win a stage in his Tour debut although worked his way back into the mix, following the crash, with an eighth place finish at the end of Stage 15 from Mende to Valence, and ninth in Paris.

"That was one of the main motivations; I was hoping to be good enough somewhere along the line and go for a stage but it wasn't quite possible," he said.

"I was quite scared in the finals because they are technical in the Tour de France, and really fast. I think that was the most positive thing I can take out of it - I did keep pushing and trying to go for stages after such a big crash."

Matthews had soaring aspirations at the Tour. A surplus of punchy stages suited the versatile sprinter, who finished third at Milan-San Remo in March, second at Brabantse Pijl and third at the Amstel Gold Race in April.

"It was really difficult for my head and for my body. I did come into this race with such high ambitions and hoping to at least take one stage win because there were a lot of stages that suited me.

"I think in the end it was good for me as a person to push through in the biggest race in the world. It's only going to make me stronger as a bike rider and a person, I hope."

Matthews has not seen the 259.2km cobbled and technical course for the September 27 road world championships in Richmond, Virginia but is confident it could suit his strengths.

He has represented Australia numerous times before, winning the under-23 road world championships in Geelong, Victoria in 2010 and finishing 14th in the elite men's race in Spain last season.

"I've been told by a lot of different people that it's a course that really suits my style of rider," he said. "That's been a really big focus of mine since last year's worlds that didn't suit me so well, but this year it seems to be perfect."