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VICTOR HARBOR, Australia (VN) — A bitterly disappointed Michael Matthews and American rider Magnus Sheffield exchanged words at the finish line Thursday after the Australian dropped a chain and lost all hope of winning the Santos Tour Down Under.
Matthews was spotted speaking heatedly to the Ineos Grenadiers rider after his GC chances melted away when he dropped his chain at the base of the decisive climb with about 22km to go that split the bunch.
It was unclear what Matthews said to Sheffield, but later comments seemed to suggest that Matthews was blaming others for his mechanical misfortune in stage 2.
“We came to the final climb. I don’t know what’s happening in cycling these days. There is no respect in the bunch. I was in a great position. I was hit from one side, and I was hit from the other side,” Matthews said at the line.
“I was in a great position. The team rode really good all day. I made two really good intermediate sprints to take some time back on the GC guys.
“I dropped my chain, and it was stuck between the frame and the front crank, and I couldn’t get it out. I couldn’t make that time back.”
Matthews did not mention Sheffield by name in those comments, but the pair was spotted in an animated conversation at the line in Victor Harbor.
Sheffield — who raced Thursday with stitches after crashing Wednesday at the finish line in stage 1 — said he approached Matthews at the finish line to give his version of events.
Sheffield explained that another rider bumped into him, perhaps causing Matthews to drop his chain at the critical moment at the base of the climb.
“Unfortunately, he dropped his chain on that climb. There was a rider who bumped into me, and [Matthews] happened to be right beside me,” Sheffield said. “And I think there was a bit of touching of wheels.
“I immediately apologized at the finish line. Unfortunately, this is part of racing,” Sheffield said. “It wasn’t by intention at all. I tried to apologize to him and be upfront with him.”
— Santos Tour Down Under 🚴🚴♀️ (@tourdownunder) January 19, 2023
The heated emotions came at the end of an intense day of racing.
Matthews was poised to have a chance to overtake the lead after gaining bonuses on overnight leader Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) in intermediate sprints.
The pace picked up as the peloton powered toward the climb which everyone knew could split the pack.
Matthews was forced off his bike on the approach of the climb, and despite a furious chase, never regained contact. He lost 2:13 to the leaders to forfeit all hope of winning.
Sheffield managed to salvage his podium chances Thursday after he could not follow the accelerations on the climb. Teammate Luke Plapp helped drive the chase and limited the losses to 11 seconds at the line to new leader Rohan Dennis.
Sheffield finished in the first chase group at 11 seconds back, and retrained third overall at 12 seconds back going into Friday’s stage over the Corkscrew climb.