Bahrain Victorious rider Filip Maciejuk has been disqualified from the Tour of Flanders after causing a huge crash in the run-in to the Oude Kwaremont.
After a furious opening two hours, the relaxed peloton was racing in colour order towards the first major obstacle of the day when disaster struck.
As Maciejuk attempted to move up the left side of the peloton on the wide straight road through town, the cobbled lay-by he was speeding up suddenly gave way to a swampy stretch of grass saturated with dirty water.
The young rider plunged into the deep puddle and was then thrown out and back into the road, right into the path of Tim Wellens, who himself was moving into position at the front of the peloton.
The result, as Maciejuk swept rightwards, his broad shoulders leading the way, was a catastrophic pile-up, the peloton able to do nothing but accept fate.
There were dozens involved and the names are still filtering through, but the worst off was clearly Wellens, who was last seen curled up on a patch of grass. Others definitely affected were Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) – who was later confirmed to have abandoned his last Tour of Flanders following the crash – Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers), Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step), a number of riders from both Bora-Hansgrohe and EF Education-EasyPost, and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) was seen having to pause at the roadside to adjust his drivetrain – his knee was more than a little bloody by the end of the race, whether from this incident or one of the many others between Bruges and Oudenaarde.
The race jury was fairly quick to impose their authority by announcing the disqualification of Maciejuk, whose actions by riding on the ‘pavement’ or bike path already invited action, while the consequences made the decision simple.
Later in the day, when the race was entering its last couple of hours, the man himself tweeted his remorse.
As the dust was beginning to settle after the race, the Pole’s teammate Matej Mohorič, who registered a DNF following a high speed crash on the second approach to the Kwaremont, had a few words on the incident.
“I don’t think he did it on purpose; for sure, he didn’t do it on purpose,” Mohorič said to gathered media. “He went, like everyone else, on the left side on the cobbles, and then he didn’t expect the grass to be so deep and lost control of the bike. So it was unfortunate, but I don’t think he meant anything bad.”
Mohorič is just five years Maciejuk’s senior at 28, and he only has one Tour of Flanders start over his teammate, but the Slovenian does have an advantage where experience is concerned. Mohorič is in his tenth year in the WorldTour, while Maciejuk only made the step up from Continental at the start of 2022 – perhaps his more experienced teammates will have some advice after today?
“It’s hard because I don’t think he did anything different than other riders,” Mohorič added, pointing out that momentarily straying from the road is very normal, especially in the Spring Classics, whether forced into the verge or taking advantage of a gutter. “For sure he will get a lot of abuse in the upcoming days, so it’s not easy for him, but we just advise him to stay off the social media for a while.”
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