Tour Down Under: Magnus Sheffield, Michael Matthews clear air over dropped-chain spat

Both riders speak at the finish line Friday to try to patch up rift at Tour Down Under.

Photo: BRENTON EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images

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CAMPBELLTOWN, Australia (VN) — Michael Matthews and Magnus Sheffield cleared the air Friday at the Santos Tour Down Under a day after the pair exchanged words at the finish line.

“I spoke to him after the stage today and we cleared the air and we all move on,” Matthews said Friday.

The pair chatted briefly after the stage to patch things up after a finishline flareup on Thursday’s stage.

“I felt it was already settled between us yesterday, but we confirmed that again today mutually,” Sheffield said Friday after the stage. “I think we can look forward to the rest of the week of racing.”

Matthews remains bitterly disappointed that contact within the bunch ahead of a short but steep climb in Thursday’s second stage caused him to drop his chain, and lose all hope of the overall title.

The Jayco-AlUla star contends Sheffield had something to do with it, though the young American counters that it wasn’t just him.

“He admitted he made a mistake, he was very sorry,” Matthews said of Sheffield. “I think as long as we all stay on the road and give each other a bit more space, but moving up on the dirt on the yesterday, I think it was really unnecessary. We covered what happened yesterday, and we spoke at the finish today, and we move on.

“I think we move on from here, and hopefully others can see this, and it’s not OK to do moves like this,” Matthews said after Friday’s stage. “I said to him, I am the first one to give other guys space if their team’s trying to move up. Just a little more space and a little more respect in the peloton, and we can have great racing, and the strongest man can win.”

On Friday, Sheffield also spoke to journalists at the finishline, and stated that he was being bumped by other riders, and was simply trying to stay on the pavement.

“Some bumping happened. I don’t think it was Matthews, it was another rider,” Sheffield said. “I didn’t actually go off the road, I was trying to avoid the gravel and that’s when you saw another rider come in contact. I think it was something that happened indirectly. This is part of racing, he understands that.”

Incident reveals stress within the bunch

Sheffield retained the best young rider’s jersey. (Photo: Getty Images)

The incident comes as a few of the older veterans in the bunch make the observation that the peloton continues to lose some of its tradition, respect, and hierarchy.

With the pressure on to race to win in every date on the calendar, every rider is being pressed to the maximum.

“I have huge respect for Matthews and everything he’s accomplished. He’s a rider I’ve looked up to ever since I got into the sport,” Sheffield said.

“I immediately apologized. It’s a shame what happens when you drop a chain because he put so much into this race and his teammates, too,” Sheffield said. “This race to them is like the Tour de France. It’s would be like the Tour of California or the US Pro Challenge to me.”

Sheffield struggled Friday to match the pace at the front of the race over the Corkscrew climb, and slipped from third to fourth, now 45 seconds back and defended the white jersey.

Matthews finished fourth Friday to lead the chase group across the line at 28 seconds back, and slotted into the points jersey.

“I was very frustrated after the stage [Thursday]. Just so much preparation went into this, to have this opportunity to lead this Australian team in our home race. There was such a big buildup,” Matthews said. “It’s not how far you fall, it’s how fast you get back up. Today was a nice way to bounce back.”

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