The final Grand Tour of the cycling season begins tonight with the 2020 edition of the Vuelta España.
Orica-GreenEDGE sprinter Michael Matthews looks to have become the first victim of the 2014 Tour de France, and the Grand Depart is still two days away.
A training crash in his home town of Monaco left ‘Bling’ with significant road rash down his left hand side and six stitches in the palm of his left hand.
He could start the Tour on Saturday, but given the tough nature of the parcours in the first week, can Orica-GreenEDGE risk taking someone with such significant injuries into the race?
The teams’ presentation is a few hours away and the word is we will know by then whether Matthews will ride or not. Matthews has flown to Leeds to attend, but so has his replacement.
OGE’s Sports Director Matt White knows all about last minute crashes. In 2004, he broke a collarbone after skidding on a cabling protector, just a few hours before the opening day prologue in Liege.
With such a strong performance at the Giro d’Italia and more success at the recent Tour de Slovenie where he won the opening day prologue and the points competition, Matthews is in superlative form and would be in the hunt for Tour success.
But if he can’t handle his bike properly in the nerve shredding chaos of a Tour finale, on his debut tour, then the risk may be too great.
Matt White will be able to counsel Matthews about the pain of missing out but it will be of little consolation with the race less than 48 hours away.
So who should replace him?
If the rumour mill is to be believed, Canadian Christian Meier will benefit from Matthews’ chronic bad luck.
He’s already had a big block of racing this year which began at the Tour de San Luis in January.
Some of his other races include Liege Bastogne Liege, Fleche Wallonne and Amstel Gold, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Tour de Romandie, the Dauphine, the Tour de Slovenie and most recently the Canadian National Championships, where Meier finished third.
He’s not a sprinter, but will do the job expected of him.
It’s not been a good week for OGE with Matthews crash coming just hours after new Daryl Impey’s positive test for Probenecid.
Hopefully their “bad luck” doesn’t come in threes, but for Matthews it looks like all his misfortune has come at once.
There’s simply too much at stake to go into a race like the Tour de France when simply pulling on the handlebars makes you wince in pain.
The Tour will only magnify his problems.