Demoted Matthews misses out on podium place in Flanders

Michael Matthews has missed out on a place on the podium in the Tour of Flanders after being demoted by the commissaires.

The Australian was initially placed third behind winner Mathieu van der Poel, the world champion, who had crushed the field with a devastating long-range attack to claim his third victory in the cobbled classic.

But Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) was penalised for deviating from his line and not allowing Nils Politt any room to pass him by the barrier, and relegated to 11th.

Michael Matthews
Australian rider Michael Matthews thought he had made the podium on the Tour of Flanders. (EPA PHOTO)

It would have been Matthews' second Monument podium this season after finishing second at Milan-San Remo.

The cycling calendar has five Monuments - Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia.

Van der Poel now has five Monument titles, three in Flanders (which is also known as De Ronde), to his name. The Dutchman produced his trademark brutal acceleration in the Koppenberg cobbled ascent, 45km from the finish, and never looked back as several riders had to step off their bikes in a rain-lashed race.

"Today was all about survival. The weather made it the toughest Ronde I've ever ridden," van der Poel said.

Mathieu van der Poel
Netherland's Mathieu van der Poel has time to celebrate on the finish line at the Tour of Flanders. (AP PHOTO)

Hundreds of thousands of fans lined on the streets of the Flanders region in Belgium, but sometimes too close to the riders. Two crashes were apparently caused by riders colliding with spectators, one of them involving Giro d'Italia stage winner Nico Denz.

Local favourite Wout van Aert missed the race after sustaining injuries in the Dwars door Vlaanderen one-day race on Wednesday while Matteo Jorgenson, who won the warm-up race, cracked as he was chasing Van der Poel after the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider's attack.

Van der Poel was in a world of his own and he crossed the line more than a minute ahead of Italian Luca Mozzato (Arkéa - B&B Hotels) and, after Matthews' demotion, German Politt (UAE Team Emirates).

The 29-year-old will be the heavy favourite for the Flanders-Roubaix double when he rides in the 'Queen of the Classics' next Sunday.

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar did not take part in the race as he is focusing on a Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double this season.

In the women's race, Elisa Longo Borghini of Lidl-Trek won her second Tour of Flanders after her 2015 victory, winning the sprint of three riders ahead of Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and Shirin van Anrooij (Lidl-Trek).

An early crash saw 10 riders go down, including two-time defending champion Lotte Kopecky, who managed to get back on her bike and return into the peloton. English former world champion Lizzie Diegnan was forced to abandon the race with a broken arm.

with agencies