Another setback for Matthews ahead of classics campaign

Sunweb staff is relieved Matthews didn't suffer worse injuries in crosswinds crash during Paris-Nice stage 1.

Photo: Getty Images

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Michael Matthews (Sunweb) avoided a potentially more serious injury Sunday despite suffering a concussion that could imperil his classics season after crashing out at Paris-Nice.

Matthews, 28, was swept off his bike in strong winds early in Sunday’s opening stage at Paris-Nice. Speaking to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, Sunweb sport director Michiel Elijzen said Matthews’s heavy crash could have been worse.

“Michael hit the rear wheel of the car, and then fell to the ground,” Elijzen said. “When I looked in the rear-view mirror, he wasn’t moving. Memories of Paris-Roubaix of last year shot through my head.”

Last year, Elijzen was a sport director at Veranda’s Willems-Crelan and saw Michael Goolaerts die at Paris-Roubaix under tragic circumstances of apparent heart failure. Heavy winds blasted the peloton Sunday, causing several crashes as the peloton broke into echelons.

“If you see Michael lying there like that, you have a bad time,” Elijzen said. “It was intense, but fortunately, it was not too bad.”

Team officials confirmed Monday the Australian sprinter suffered a concussion in a crash-filled stage for Sunweb that also saw Martijn Tusveld and Roy Curvers hit the deck in three different spills.

“Michael suffered a concussion and was cleared of having any fractures, but will remain in hospital overnight,” said Sunweb doctor Camiel Aldershof. “Both Michael and Martijn crashed quite hard, but are relatively OK given the circumstances.”

Team officials did not speculate how long Matthews might be sidelined for, but a concussion can require weeks of recovery. With Milano-Sanremo set for March 23, there’s a chance Matthews might miss the season’s first monument. Matthews has a full classics schedule ahead of him, where he is expected to be a contender in every major race from E3 Binkbank Classic until Liège-Bastogne-Liège, only skipping Paris-Roubaix.

The injury is the latest setback for Matthews, who cracked his collarbone in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2018. He struggled throughout the spring classics. The Aussie later was forced to abandon the Tour de France in the first week with stomach problems. A winner of the green jersey at the 2017 Tour, Matthews finished off the season on a high note with back-to-back wins at the Canadian WorldTour dates in September.

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