Filip Maciejuk has apologised for “a big error in judgment” after wiping out dozens of riders in a huge crash at the Tour of Flanders.
The Bahrain Victorious rider was disqualified for attempting to re-join the pack after cycling through a puddle and leaving a pile of cyclists in his wake when he collided with those at the front.
The cold and humid weather contributed to several crashes in Sunday’s race, but none so severe as this one, which left a tangle of legs and bikes strewn across the road.
Peter Sagan, the 2016 champion riding in his final Flanders, was one of the victims of the pile-up, with Tim Wellens being another notable rider who was forced to retire.
Maciejuk was quick to apologise and reaffirmed that the crash was in no way deliberate, tweeting: “I’m really sorry for my mistake and causing the crash today. I hope all those involved are in good health and safe. This should not happen and was a big error in my judgement.
Despite the crashes, the pace of the race was still quick, and Wellens’ abscence did not hinder teammate Tadej Pogacar, who joked that he could now retire happy from cycling after winning the classic for the first time.
Pogacar became only the third Tour de France champion to win Flanders after Frenchman Louison Bobet and Belgian great Eddy Merckx.
“With the speed on the cobbles I was already suffering,” said Pogacar, who races for UAE Team Emirates.
Sunday’s victory was his third “monument” win, after winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège in Belgium in 2021 and the Tour of Lombardy for the past two years.
The two he has yet to win are Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, which has even tougher cobbles than Flanders and is being held next Sunday. Mathieu van der Poel won Milan-San Remo this year with Pogacar finishing in fourth place.
“San Remo is the most difficult one [of the five monuments], I arrived there in good shape this year,” said Pogacar, who also won the Paris-Nice stage race this year.
He is uncertain whether he is bulky enough to take on Roubaix, which is known as “L’Enfer du Nord” (The Hell of the North).
“I think I need to gain a few kilos for Roubaix,” Pogacar said. “Toughen my hands for the cobbles.”