It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
The virtual world was designed to stop the inconveniences of the reality from stamping on our hopes and dreams, but try telling that to Michael Matthews (Sunweb), who saw his aspirations of winning a virtual lockdown edition of the Tour of Flanders go up in smoke thanks to a mechanical.
The Australian was one of a select band of professional WorldTour riders chosen to race an online version of the Flanders finale, with Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) also on the startlist.
The event was streamed online and Matthews and his Sunweb teammate Nicolas Roche were well placed at the front of the small group until the Australian saw his chances of winning disappear at the foot of the Oude Kwaremont.
Under normal circumstances – by that we mean outside – riders are often hampered by crashes and mechanicals, but one of the draws with online racing is that it’s meant to eliminate such issues. However, Matthews found himself unable to change gears and could only watch on from the computer screen set up in his home as his rivals disappeared up the virtual road.
With no time to ‘turn it off and on again’ Matthews’ race was over. Van Avermaet went on to win the race thanks to a long-range attack.
“Sorry guys something went wrong with gears got stuck in the 11 on the oude kwarmont, this is the social distancing no mechanics but had a great time congrats @GregVanAvermaet please everybody stay safe and stay at home,” Matthews posted on Twitter after the race.
There was some consolation for Sunweb with Roche finishing third behind Van Avermaet and Naesen.