12 months after he won his first green jersey on the roads of France, Canberran Michael Matthews has been prematurely forced to end his Tour de France campaign.
Matthews was struck down by illness on Wednesday morning local time (11 June), vomiting, unable to eat and suffering from a high fever. With no sign of improvement, Team Sunweb decided to pull the pin on his tour before the start of the fifth stage.
His withdrawal from the race is a huge loss for Team Sunweb, a year after the sprinter became only the third Australian – and the first since 2006 – to win the Tour de France green jersey, which many regard as the ultimate achievement for a road cycling sprinter.
Matthews said he will head home to recover and will cheer on his team from there.
“I’m really disappointed to not start this morning,” Matthews said. “I’ve been really ill and tried all I could to make it to the start line, but feeling like this, it’s simply not possible.”
The preparations for @LeTour start months in advance. But sometimes, no matter how much work you put in, things don't always go the way you want them to. We're sad to report that @blingmatthews is unable to start #TDF2018 this morning due to sickness. Feel better soon, Michael! pic.twitter.com/qVV33iwXcY
— Team Sunweb (@TeamSunweb) July 11, 2018
Team Sunweb’s physician Mannes Naeff said Matthews’ condition worsened as the morning progressed. “We wanted to see how he would feel, but with a high fever we made the decision that it was just not possible for him to take the start line,” Naeff said.
Team Sunweb’s coach Tom Veelers said it was a huge blow to lose the sprinter, who is not only a strong competitor in challenging for day results but also of huge value to the team on the difficult stages.
“We will continue to fight with seven guys and we wish Michael all the best in feeling better soon,” Veelers said.