LEEDS: The fairytale season of Canberra rider Michael Matthews hangs in the balance with a training crash on Tuesday now placing his debut in the Tour de France in doubt.
His Orica-GreenEDGE team said on Wednesday that Matthews, who won stage six in this year's Giro d'Italia in which he also wore the leader's pink jersey for six stages, has had six stitches in the palm of his hand due to the fall.
Such an injury is extremely painful for any rider due to their pull on the handlebars; but it is especially so for one like Matthews who is a strong sprinter, powerful on short hills and pulls on the handlebars to maximise speed and acceleration.
A decision on whether or not Matthews will line up for the Tour start in Leeds on Saturday will be made at the last minute if need be, but in the meantime his team management will monitor his progress as he rides on an indoor trainer.
The team will be gutted if Matthews, 23, is not able to take part in the Tour that begins with the 190.5km first stage from Leeds to Harrogate that should suit the sprinters.
Matthews, the 2010 Under 23 world road champion who won two stages of last year's Vuelta a Espana, has been in terrific form this season and is now rated a serious stage winning chance in the Tour.
Before his success in the Giro that also included his ride in the team time trial that Orica-GreenEDGE won, Matthews took out the Vuelta a la Rioja and a stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
And in his final race before the Tour, the Tour de Slovenie, Matthews won the stage one 8.8km time trial and overall points classification.
"At the moment he will be at the start line but ... We are going to see how it goes," Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director Matt White said on Wednesday.
"He is going to ride on the home trainer tomorrow [Thursday] and we will see what happens. But he has hurt himself.
"He has [six] stitches in his hand ... I can't remember if it's right or left, but it's not an ideal start to your first Tour de France."
White said Matthews' crash came because: "He hit a piece of stone ... on a deviation on a bit of gravelly road" while training.
White said that Matthews' moral has been "up and down, that's for sure" since his Tour start has been placed in jeopardy.
"It's not an ideal start for the Tour de France for anybody, especially for your first Tour," White said.
"But he has put a lot of preparation in his first Tour and he is not going to let that preparation go to waste."
White would not say who would most likely replace Matthews should he not start the Tour that finishes on July 27 in Paris.
It is understood the team was looking at several options for a back-up rider on Wednesday. Although, whoever they pick as the best reserve is expected to join the team at its Yorkshire hotel in Harrogate, near Leeds, by Thursday.
White also rejected any suggestion that Orica-GreenEDGE would start with one rider less than the nine allowed.'
"We will race with nine [riders]. It is too big a race to start with one short," he said.