Mathieu van der Poel has spoken after being fined for confronting two teenage girls the night before the men’s road race at the World Championships in Wollongong.
Van der Poel was fined AU$1500 for the incident after two teenagers were said to have been repeatedly knocking on his door, which prevented him from sleeping.
The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider was set to appear in court on Tuesday but was allowed to fly home after his passport was returned to him following an initial confiscation.
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He arrived in Brussels on the same flight as the new world champion Remco Evenepoel and spoke to reporters upon his arrival.
“That’s what I said, I held a girl by the arm, certainly not with the intention of hurting anyone,” said Van der Poel after video footage emerged of the alleged hotel incident on Tuesday.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I have never hurt anyone. There are a lot of stories going around about pushing and stuff. That is absolutely not true. Not what happened.
“There are two sides to a story and being in Australia it's hard to deal with.”
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Asked if he would act differently if in the same situation again, Van der Poel said: “I definitely regret it, I’m wrong, I admit that. I shouldn't have done that, I should have acted differently.
“Unfortunately it happened. I try to put it behind me and see what comes next. Now I go home, get some peace and quiet, I’m very happy to be back. Now the team and the lawyer will deal with it."
A statement from New South Wales police confirmed an incident took place at 22:30 local time on Saturday night and officers from St George police arrested a 27-year-old man.
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Van der Poel spent most of the night in custody before returning to his hotel at 04:00 local time on Sunday morning, so had very little sleep before the road race.
He was one of the favourites for the road race but pulled out after around 25 kilometres.
“It was late and I wanted to sleep,” said Van der Poel when asked why he didn’t call for security.
“I thought I could fix it myself, which went completely wrong. Unfortunately, I can't change it any more.”
Van der Poel’s lawyer has indicated he will appeal the conviction.
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