Australians Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews clashed over team leadership and responsibilities following the World Championships on Sunday in Richmond, USA with Matthews saying that the pair raced against each other.
Matthews won the bunch sprint for the silver medal behind solo winner, Peter Sagan (Slovakia). His position was the same that Gerrans achieved last year in Ponferrada Spain behind Polish winner Michal Kwiatkowski. Gerrans yesterday placed sixth in the same group as Matthews.
Matthews explained beforehand that he hoped the entire Aussie team would support him. Gerrans, who also races on the same Orica-GreenEDGE trade team, told the Sydney Morning Herald that both riders had protected status.
“I think we both deserved that,” Gerrans, 10 years older at 35, told the Australian newspaper.
“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.”
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Matthews was less diplomatic after receiving his silver medal and watching Sagan don the rainbow jersey. His team and other teams attempted to pull back Sagan after the last climb, but failed by three seconds.
Speaking to Cyclingnews, he praised team-mate Heinrich Haussler’s work, but not Gerrans’s. He explained Gerrans did not help him.
“We were sprinting against each other unfortunately. We had two leaders so it is what it is,” he said.
“I would have liked the full support but it is what it is. We came in with two leaders.”
Former professional, Bradley McGee directed the Australian team. His two-pronged approach was a good way to get a medal, but maybe not the gold one, said Matthews.
Matthews, 25, began as a favourite with places this year in big one-day races: third in both Milan-San Remo and the Amstel Gold Race, and second in Brabantse Pijl and the GP Quebec.
Gerrans had a terrible season with three crashes and subsequent fractures. He won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and both the Canadian WorldTour races in Québec and Montreal last year, but due to his setbacks was still without a win in 2015.
He returned to racing in the Vuelta a España after abandoning the Tour de France with a broken wrist.
Gerrans, however, added that he raced to McGee’s pre-race plan. He said, “It was never the case of somebody didn’t do what was asked of them, or somebody didn’t do what was expected of them throughout the day.”
Australia last won the elite men’s road race in 2009 in Mendrisio, Switzerland, with Cadel Evans.