Australian sprinter Michael Matthews is in line for possible selection in the Tour de France that starts in Leeds on July 5, following his withdrawal from the Giro d’Italia in which he wore the leader’s pink jersey for six days and won the sixth stage last week.
The decision to pull the 23 year-old Canberran from the three week Giro that ends in Trieste on June 1 was made after he placed third in Tuesday’s 184km 10th stage from Modena to Salsomaggiore.
Matthews sustained severe cuts, abrasions and bruising in a crash in Sunday’s ninth stage – the day after he relinquished the Giro lead to Australian Cadel Evans (BMC) on stage 8.
And despite Matthews’ strong finish on Tuesday’s stage, in which he finished behind the French winner Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) and Italian Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek), it was deemed that it would be better for him to leave the Giro and recover properly.
Evans, ninth on the stage, held the leader’s jersey – or ‘maglia rosa’ - ahead of Wednesday’s 11th stage, 249km from Collechio to Savona with of 57 seconds on Colombian Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and 1min 10 secs on Poland’s Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).
While recovery is foremost for Matthews, not finishing the Giro raises the possibility him making Orica-GreenEDGE’s Tour team if he can also freshen up.
Australian sprinter Matt Goss is still hopeful of a Tour start, but he needs a major win to secure a spot. Matthews, on the other hand, also a sprinter but also strong on hillier finishes, has the wins and form that can be bottled for the Tour.
Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director, Matt White would not comment on Matthews Tour chances, other than to tell Fairfax Media when asked on Wednesday morning (AEST): “He is definitely in our long list.”
White also clarified his comments on SBS television during coverage of Tuesday's 10th stage regarding the team’s commitment to try and sign up a general classification rider for next year.
White told Fairfax Media that he was asked if the team is looking for such a rider and if he had one in mind.
“The answer is yes, I do. I have a general classification rider in mind,” White said on Wednesday.
“I have more than one person – but there is one particular person I have in mind.”
However, White said it was “my mistake” that he said an announcement would be made in the next weeks, as the Union Cycliste Internationale transfer period allowing team transfer announcements to be made does not open until August 1.
Hence, White said he could not name the rider he has in mind, nor would he eliminate names that were cited and included three Australians in Evans, who is off contract, Richie Porte (Sky) who has another year on his contract, or Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp).
“I am not able to eliminate,” White said.
“But …100 per cent truthful, no deal has been done. I have certain people in mind, but any deal hasn’t been done for next year.”
White still reiterated the team’s intent to sign a grand tour contender.
“We are ready to step up a level and have a rider to contest a grand tour,” White said.
“We have been honest from the start … for the first two years we weren’t ready.
“We are not just a team that tries to win the Tour Down Under and a couple of stages here and there.
"We have the depth to control some of the biggest races in the world.”
Rupert Guinness will be covering the last 10 days of the Giro d’Italia as a guest of Eurosport. Eurosport are covering all stage of the Giro live.