Australian Michael Matthews has just missed out on a podium finish at his maiden Tour of Flanders, won by unfancied Italian Alberto Bettiol.
Matthews has rated his maiden Tour of Flanders race as a “beautiful thing to be a part of” despite just missing out on a podium finish.
Team Sunweb’s Matthews was among the chasing pack as the unfancied Alberto Bettiol used a solo attack to win one of cycling’s five ‘Monuments’ classics, considered the most prestigious one-day races.
Bettiol made his move about 17 kilometres from the finish on the final climb of the Oude Kwaremont to post his first professional victory.
Dane Kasper Asgreen finished second and Norway’s Alexander Kristoff completed the podium when he won a bunch sprint, which included Team Sunweb’s Matthews.
“Sprinting for a podium in Flanders on my first shot, I think it’s a good day,” Matthews told Cyclingnews.
“I was thinking that I might try to do something in the final, but I think I had a bit of a target on my back. I tried for the sprint but I had nothing left.”
Having finished second at the 2010 under-23 Tour of Flanders, Matthews was thrilled to have finally had a chance to contend in the main event.
“It was definitely as fun as I’d have hoped,” Matthews said.
“It was a beautiful race, the fans were amazing… I think that I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life, for sure.”
Bettiol, a 25-year-old all-round rider, returned to the Education First team this season after a year away at BMC.
“I still can’t believe it,” he said after he became the first Italian rider to win the race since Alessandro Ballan in 2007.
“I still don’t believe what I did. My first win.”
Defending champion Niki Terpstra abandoned the race when he crashed 157 kms from the line. The Dutchman suffered concussion and lost consciousness before being taken to hospital.
The 270km Tour of Flanders is the second of the high-profile classics along with Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of Lombardy.
It features 17 short but punishing climbs and five cobblestone sections.
The Paris-Roubaix, known as the “Hell of the North” for its even more challenging cobbles, is on Sunday.