Matthews downbeat on his chances in his 'dream race'
Michael Matthews has offered a downbeat assessment of his chances of winning his 'dream' Milan-San Remo race next week after another disappointing day on the European roads.
Australia's top-ranked road cyclist has not been happy with his form since returning from a successful spell back home where he raced to bronze medals at both the world and Australian championships and also took the points jersey in the Tour Down Under.
But after mistiming his finish in Thursday's fifth stage of Paris-Nice - his last chance of a sprint win at this year's 'Race to the Sun' - the 32-year-old spearhead of the Australian team Jayco AlUla admitted his 'different' preparation for the European campaign may not have helped.
"I guess it's very different to other years when I stayed here in Europe and really trained in the cold, preparing for Paris-Nice, Milan-San Remo and the Classics, whereas this time I was in Australia racing," Canberra's Matthews told reporters.
"I'm not super happy with where I am at the moment - but, hopefully, it's progressing forward, not backwards."
Matthews is desperate to be in top shape to have an 11th crack at winning the Italian 'Spring Classic' a week on Saturday, saying "it's my dream race to try to win" after placing third on two occasions and being in the top-seven five times.
But his hopes of a morale-boosting preparation win at Paris-Nice evaporated when, in a chaotic sprint finale to the 212.4km stage from Saint-Symphorien-sur-Coise to Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux, he admitted Jayco AlUla "totally mistimed" the run-in.
Dutch sprinter Olav Kooij went on to take the stage for Jumbo-Visma while two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar still leads overall by six seconds from France's David Gaudu.
Jack Haig remains the race's leading Australian in 20th place.
In the week's other major European race, Tirreno-Adriatico, Australia's Giro d'Italia winner Jai Hindley is still in the shake-up in seventh place.
He's just 18 seconds down on his Bora-hansgrohe teammate Lennard Kamna, who has six seconds in hand over Primoz Roglic, a mightily impressive fourth-stage winner on Thursday.
But Hindley's fellow Perth ace Ben O'Connor had a bad day, dropping 29 seconds to his rivals and putting himself on the backfoot going into Friday's toughest mountain stage.
"I'm pretty unhappy, I expected more today. Hopefully, I can come out tomorrow with a better mindset and better legs, and do what I think I can do," said AG2R Citroen leader O'Connor.