Michael Matthews on the Milan-San Remo podium.

Unbearably close for Michael Matthews

"I wouldn't change anything," Matthews says after runner-up ride on the Via Roma.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 16.03.2024 More from Dane +

Nine years since his first ride onto the Milan-San Remo podium, Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) came oh-so-close to his first Monument victory on Saturday. Unfortunately for the 33-year-old Australian, it wasn’t quite close enough, as he finished just behind Jasper Philipsen to take runner-up honors on the day.

“Millimeters,” an emotional Matthews said as he rode over to his wife and daughter after the finish line, holding up his fingers to show the gap between his front tire and the tire of Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck).

Unbearably close, really. The result was the latest in a long line of almosts for Matthews, whose palmares does include a huge haul of victories in races at the highest level – but also three podium performances at Monuments and three more at road Worlds without any victories in those events.

In the immediate aftermath of the race, Matthews was experiencing conflicting emotions, coming to terms with just how close he had come yet again, but also acknowledging that it had been no small feat to go from being ill a week ago to runner-up on the Via Roma.

“At this moment it’s hard to swallow. Obviously, being a centimeter from a Monument victory, it’s hard,” he said. “But I must admit that this time last week I didn’t even know if I was going to start the race. I was sitting at home sick watching Paris-Nice, not sure where I was at. A week later, to be here in San Remo, coming in second by one centimeter, it’s not bad. The team rode great today and I’m proud of the result.”

The final sprint at Milan-San Remo.
Jasper Philipsen just pipped Michael Matthews at the line on the Via Roma.

It was an honorable loss, at least. When the sprint unfolded in the final 200 meters of the race, Matthews was at first in front of Philipsen as the Belgian was winding up to speed. Matthews could have tried to angle slightly closer to the barriers on the left side of the road in an attempt to shut the proverbial door, and given the strong hold on the position that he had at that moment, he might have been able to do it without risking relegation too, but he did not. The gap was still there when Philipsen launched – as Matthews’s sunglasses fell off and bounced on the tarmac below – and Philipsen came around with just enough speed to take the victory.

Although not specifically addressing that exact facet of the sprint, Matthews did say afterward that he was content with how he had played things in the end.

“I think I did everything perfectly,” he said. “I wouldn’t change anything.”

While the near-miss felt “bittersweet” in the short term, it does seem like Matthews will look back on his ride with a sense of accomplishment. It is a particularly impressive achievement given that his past few years have been lighter on results than those of the mid-to-late 2010s when he was constantly contending for big wins throughout the season. In the early goings of his 14th year in the WorldTour ranks, Matthews has shown that he has the form to keep fighting for the big one-day wins he has been hunting for so long.

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