Australian Michael Matthews battled to a hard fought fifth place after making the decisive selection at Ghent-Wevelgem.
It was a chaotic opening half of the stage with a strong group of 25 going clear in the crosswinds and swallowing up the early breakaway of four riders. Team BikeExchange were well represented in the front split with Jack Bauer, Rob Stannard, Alex Edmondson and Luka Mezgec all present alongside Matthews.
That group then continue to whittle down over the climbs and on the run to the finish in Wevelgem, with just seven riders remaining at the front with 10km to go. The chasing group had threatened to bridge the gap, but it was too little too late, with the day set to end in a small group sprint.
With a number of fast finishers amongst the seven leaders, Matthews made sure he was well positioned as the line approached, but as the kick was launched the 30-year-old just ran out of legs as Wout van Aert sprinted to victory.
“Before the race we had a really good meeting, Mat Hayman gave us a really good idea at around 70km into the race we would move to the front as a team and position ourselves for the crosswind.
It worked, I think we got a split of around 25 guys and we had five guys there at that point. That worked really well and then we worked all through the race to try and keep things together and give me the best opportunity for the sprint in the final.
There were seven of us left in the final for the kick and I didn’t have the legs to win the sprint unfortunately, but I gave it my best, the team did an awesome job today, so I’m looking forward to next weekend now.”
Mat Hayman (Sports Director):
“The boys rode a fantastic race today, the wind was there, everybody knew about it. Ghent-Wevelgem is always a race that has wind at the start and then the climbs, and the guys were where they needed to be and they made the front split. They rode and they had the race under control, so hats off to the boys there.
Michael came up against the best of the best in the final, obviously suffering from some cramps there at the end, but he did absolutely everything right.”
2021 Ghent-Wevelgem Results:
1. Wout van Aert 5:45:11
2. Giacomo Nizzolo ST
3. Matteo Trentin ST
5. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) ST
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.