The national technical director said Matthews had not put his hand up to compete as a contender in the mountainous title, which Spain’s Alejandro Valverde won, from the outset.
Matthews didn’t pointedly express dissatisfaction over sitting out but received a groundswell of support from indignant fans on social media, where he was an active and positive commentator throughout the titles in Innsbruck, Austria last week.
“There was an ongoing discussion I believe, I don’t know, in the media concerning Michael Matthews,” said McGee. “Michael, from where I’m sitting, never had his hand up to be a supported rider in this one. There was never any indication that he wanted that role.”
McGee said it wasn’t until Richie Porte came late into the picture that the 28-year-old voiced a desire to compete, not as a leader but an aid, particularly to his training partner.
Porte himself wasn’t initially on Australia’s long list for the World Championships but was promoted to team leader after he crashed out of the Tour de France in July.
“I see Michael as a winner - not a supporter - but it’s fantastic and humbling that he wanted to be there and help the boys,” said McGee.
“I can assure Michael, I have assured Michael, and will keep assuring him that when it’s his turn again, the support will be there. There will be no doubt of that when he’s on, back in that leader role and able to really target a gold medal.
“I think a bit was lost in translation there with some people outside the circle but it’s only strengthening for what we’re going into, in the next couple of campaigns.”
Matthews claimed a bronze medal in the road race World Championships last year, took silver at the 2015 titles, where he publicly lamented what might have been if not for a reported leadership tiff with Simon Gerrans, and won gold in the 2010 under-23 event.
The three-time Tour de France stage winner last month turned around a frustrating season marred with injury and illness at the spring classics and Tour, respectively, claiming victory at the Quebec and Montreal GPs. He was also part of the Sunweb team that got silver in the team time trial World Championships.
“Michael is always ready to go at Worlds time. I think he had a bit of FOMO going on there, missing out on Worlds, but he just wanted to be there with the boys and that’s really encouraging,” McGee said.
“Michael has an amazing ability to target events, prepare for them and be quite dynamic but in the time available there was no question that he could even try to score opportunities for him maybe taking on a leader role.”
Porte withdrew from the titles about a week out citing illness and following a quiet run at the Vuelta a España. That left Jack Haig, who placed 19th out of 76 finishers, and Simon Clarke to reassume their original marquee positions in the national squad line-up.