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Matthews' cycling dream ended by bad luck and fair play

AP PHOTO

Michael Matthews has revealed how his dream of winning the Milan-Sanremo 'Monument' classic may have been scuppered by a touch of ill-fortune - and his own sense of fair play.

The 33-year-old Jayco AlUla rider, one of the country's very finest riders for more than a decade, was still left reflecting Sunday on what might have been as he missed out in winning the biggest race of his life the previous day in Italy by just a few centimetres.

Being edged out by Belgian Jasper Philipsen in a photo-finish on Saturday prompted tears from the tough Aussie, as he pondered how close he had been to achieving his career-long ambition of winning one of the sport's five biggest one-day races.

But while never one for making excuses, Matthews did reveal to reporters after the line two good reasons why his runner's-up spot - a third podium finish in Milan-Sanremo - might easily have been a victory.

First, the bad luck. "I'm not sure if people saw but my glasses fell off with 50 metres to go and I had to stop pedalling for a second," said Matthews.

"That's when Philipsen came past me. It sucks but I can't change it now."

Next, his own determination that the exciting sprint denouement was all above board as Philipsen came up on his inside close to the crowd barriers in the Via Roma finale.

"I could have closed him to the barrier - but I want to ride a fair sprint," explained Matthews.

"I want to win because I was the strongest, not because he had to brake. If he was able to come past, he was the better rider on the day."

It proved an extraordinary effort by Matthews, who admitted that just seven days earlier he wasn't sure he'd be able to compete because sickness had forced him to pull out of the Paris-Nice week-long 'race to the Sun'.

"This time last week I was sitting on the couch not knowing if I'd even start Milan-San Remo. I was grateful I had legs," he said - and that bodes well for another successful season for the Canberra veteran, who has only had one season in the last 15 which was win-free.