• Michael Matthews (L) and Simon Gerrans (R) in background, cross the line, clearly disappointed, at the 2015 Worlds in Richmond, USA (AAP)Source: AAP
Did a failure to pull for one leader lose Australia the rainbow jersey, or was Peter Sagan just too strong?
By
Cycling Central

30 Sep 2015 - 9:58 AM 

In one corner, we have Michael Matthews - rising star, fast finisher from reduced groups on punchy courses, coming off a year which has seen huge triumphs but also marred by crashes.

In the other, we have Simon Gerrans - veteran winner of two Monuments, fast finisher from reduced groups on punchy courses, looking to salvage a crash-marred season.

The two riders went into the Elite Men's World Championships in Richmond as joint leaders of the Australian team, but Matthews and Gerrans left with second and fifth places respectively as Peter Sagan powered away from the field.

However, could they have pulled the Slovakian back if Gerrans had worked for Matthews? That's the debate occupying Aussie minds this week.

Matthews' view

Matthews fired the first salvo after the race on Sunday, when he highlighted the fact that Gerrans sprinted against him - but stopped short of criticising Gerrans openly.

"I think we were sprinting against each other unfortunately," said Matthews to Cyclingnews after the race. "We had two leaders so it is was it is."

Matthews noticeably praised teammate Heinrich Haussler for his work on the final lap, but omitted to comment on Gerrans.

When asked if he was disappointed that Gerrans had not worked for him, he added: "Yeah, I would have liked the full support but it is what it is. We came in with two leaders."

Gerro's response

Gerrans, meanwhile, maintains he was well within his rights to ride his own race as joint team leader.

"Leading into the race [Matthews] was pretty vocal saying that he would like support from the team," Gerrans told Fairfax.

"But under the circumstances and how we both prepared for the race we decided to go with the option of giving us both the opportunity. I think we both deserved that. We were both right there at the end of the day and regardless of whether we took a different tactic, Peter Sagan I think was clearly the best guy in the race."

"The way that Peter rode, it wouldn't have mattered how many leaders you had in the team, we couldn't have done much about that," added Gerrans.

Storm in a teacup?

It may be too much to call this a disagreement between the two riders - both proven winners on this type of course. Indeed, it's likely that this will all soon be forgotten as both riders get into the meat of the 2016 season.

It's also likely that Sagan was too strong for anyone to catch. However, Matthews maintains that he had to attack solo to try and bridge to van Avermaet and Edvald Boassen Hagen, and as a result was brough back by Degenkolb. Could Gerrans have made the difference and helped make the bridge? Could three men have caught Sagan when two could not?

We'll never know. However, should the Australian team find itself in a similar situation in Qatar next year or in Norway in 2017, then we would hope that the possibility of an Aussie wearing the rainbow stripes and the spirit of mateship would win out over personal ambitions. 

One person certainly thinks so - and he's already got his eyes on the next Worlds road race.

 

 

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