Race report

Matthews sprints to 6th at Flanders debut

Ronde van Vlaanderen

Today saw the second Monument of the year take place at Ronde van Vlaanderen. With a gruelling 270 kilometres on the menu for the riders featuring several climbs and cobbled sections littered throughout the parcours, it was set to be a tough day out in Belgium.

A breakaway of four riders went clear after the opening twenty kilometres of racing and they quickly gained a large advantage over the peloton, with the race settling into a familiar pattern. However, the gap was quickly whittled down once the main peloton started to pick up the pace and the race was back together over the top of the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen. As the speed was so high, the peloton split on the descent and a group of around 40 riders, featuring Michael Matthews, Søren Kragh Andersen and most of the pre-race favourites got clear. Yet, with no real co-operation and organisation amongst the group things once again came back together.

Despite several attacks over the next 40 kilometres, no attack got a big enough gap to worry the peloton. The race became more of an elimination event, with riders going out the back rather than the front. Onto the final passage of the Oude Kwaremont, the place where eventual race winner Bettiol launched his winning attack, Matthews was with the main group of favourites and followed them up the climb.

Sprinting for the minor places, Matthews came home in sixth place: a strong result for the Ronde van Vlaanderen debutant.

Speaking at the finish, Matthews was pleased with his result and first outing at Flanders: “It was definitely as fun as I had hoped, it was a beautiful race. The fans were amazing, especially on the Kwaremont. I couldn’t hear myself think at times and it was such a great race to be a part of. I was happy to be here and competing after the crash earlier in the Spring. The guys rode really strong to support me all day and keep me well positioned going into the climbs. I got a little trapped in the sprint but I had nothing left in the end. Sprinting for a podium in Flanders at my first shot is a good result and I think today showed that with the support of the team again, I can do well here in the future.”

Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef was happy with the team work on show: “We had a clear goal to ride for Michael today, and position him and Søren towards the front at the crucial points of the race for as long as possible. As a team we did a really good job, we were together all the time and well positioned. In the final Michael gave it his all and finished 6th. It’s a really good result for someone riding Flanders for the first time and he and the team can be proud of it.”