A judge has overturned Mathieu van der Poel's assault conviction relating to an incident at his hotel on the night before the men's road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, Australia, in September.
Both the common assault convictions were quashed, as well as the A$1,500 fines, with the judge highlighting the "annoying and invasive" actions of the teenage girls who repeatedly knocked on the Dutch rider's door as he tried to sleep.
The Australian Daily Telegraph reports judge Ian Bourke SC told Sydney Downing Centre District Court while Van der Poel's reaction — chasing the girls aged 13 and 14 into their own room and pushing one against a wall — would have been "disturbing" for the pair, it came as a "response to annoying and invasive conduct" and a "significant degree of provocation".
Judge Bourke also questioned why the girls were left alone in the hotel, describing their knock-and-run actions as "silly conduct by unsupervised children", while Van der Poel's defence lawyer Michael Bowe said it was "deliberately to bait him and wind him up".
Mr Bowe admitted his client "fell into the trap" and suffered "exceptional embarrassment and humiliation" in the months since, also pointing out if the convictions were not to be overturned then he could have difficulties travelling internationally during the remainder of his career.
Speaking outside the court after the successful appeal, Mr Bowe said he had not spoken to Van der Poel yet but he would be "very, very happy" as "he's a dedicated sportsman and cyclist" who "didn't need a conviction".
"It's really important these matters were dismissed," Mr Bowe concluded.
The day after the incident, having been taken to Kogarah Police Station, only returning to his hotel room at 4am on the day of the race, Van der Poel abandoned just 45 minutes into the 267km event.
According to court documents, the 27-year-old became "frustrated" when the girls repeatedly knocked on his door, room 930 of the Grand Parade Hotel, at 10.40pm, running back to their own room before he could answer.
Despite Van der Poel's girlfiriend, who was also staying in the room, asking the pair to stop they continued, the Alpecin-Deceuninck pro waiting for the next knock before "chasing them into their hotel room, following close behind".
One of the girls suffered a graze on her elbow as she was pushed against a wall while being shouted at by Van der Poel and the whole incident was captured in a somewhat incoherent mobile phone recording.
The police arrived shortly after and formally charged Van der Poel, taking him to the police station, confiscating his passport and issuing a court order.
In the week after the road race Van der Poel pleaded guilty to the assault charges and he was allowed to travel home to the Netherlands, his lawyer stressing at the time that they intended to appeal the convictions, a process that concluded earlier today in Sydney.
In the storm of reaction that followed the incident the father of the teenage girls was critical of the fact Van der Poel had "fled the country" and argued that if he had "assaulted children [then] I'd be locked up in jail for a year because I can't afford bail".
Emad, the father, said Van der Poel had "every right to be angry, but not to do what he did" and said his daughters were "very shaken" by the incident.
"The eldest is a daredevil, but this shocked her. He was yelling at my youngest, the 12-year-old, saying 'were you doing this as well?' and she was freaking out. They are very shaken.
"But they did get in trouble. They are in trouble. He's got every right to get angry, but not to do what he did. They're tiny little girls, and he's massive.
"Look, I did things when I was their age, but the younger one had Covid only a few weeks ago and this was their time out. They were excited… but then they were a bit naughty. My wife's angry that he's fled the country as well as what he did.
"We went to the hospital on Sunday and I'm taking her [one of the girls] to the psychologist because she's scared.
"She's worried she's in trouble and has done something wrong because some people are blaming her and me, saying it was the girls' fault and I'm a bad parent, but it was the school holidays – what kids at that age are going to bed at nine o'clock?"
The end of season incident signalled the end of Van der Poel's road racing campaign, but he has since made a winning return to the cyclocross scene, taking victory at the recent World Cup rounds in Hulst and Antwerp.
This Saturday's round in Val di Sole in northern Italy's Trentino valley will be his first competitive outing since the convictions were overturned.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.