Michael Matthews relegated from Flanders podium to 11th

Matthews was penalized for swinging across the road during his sprint and officially reclassified as last rider in his group.

Caley Fretz
by Caley Fretz 31.03.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Michael Matthews buried his face into the chest of his Jayco-AlUla teammate, the enormous Max Walscheid, and let out the guttural, ecstatic yell of a man who had just snatched a Monument podium in the last possible meters. He soaked in the cold Flemish rain, joyously unaware that the place was about to be ripped back.

Matthews was relegated from third place to 11th at the Tour of Flanders for a sprint deviation deemed unacceptable by the race jury. His small group caught Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech) and Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) with less than 100 meters left to race; he swung around the two, then kept going to his right, ending up near the fencing. A door that briefly opened for Luca Mozzato (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), and the UAE Team Emirates trio of Nils Politt, António Morgado and Mikkel Bjerg had been closed; they looked for the space and the power to come by, but could find neither.

Matthews’ director, Paris-Roubaix winner Mat Hayman, pushed back on the jury’s decision and said his team will seek clarity on the ruling. Acknowledging the rules are the rules, he pointed to inconsistent application of those rules in similar incidents as the primary source of frustration.

“Look, everybody wants really safe riding. I think we’re all for that,” Hayman said. “I hope that in the Tour de France, the same line will be followed because there have been a lot of calls where people probably should have been relegated and they haven’t. And now, we’re deciding that 2024 is the year that it starts. This is the precedent now. I hope it’s carried forward.”

Just weeks ago, Matthews was commended for a particularly classy sprint at Milan-San Remo. As he opened his effort toward the finish line, holding a line near the left-hand barriers, he left room for Jasper Philipsen to squeeze through on his left. That door could have easily been closed, and likely without relegation. Philipsen won the sprint, and Milan-San Remo, by a few centimeters.

“I imagine he’s pretty distressed at the moment, to have something like that taken away is pretty distressing,” Hayman said of Matthews. “We’ll do everything we can because, you know, I don’t feel like it’s a clear enough case. That’s my personal opinion. Other people might have other opinions.”

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