He breezed through the classics and bubbled hot in weeklong races. Now it’s time for Matteo Jorgenson to take a taste of grand tour racing.
Racing in his sophomore season, Jorgenson will make his grand tour debut at the Giro d’Italia this month, and he’s got a lot of riding to do while he’s there.
After a standout spring, Movistar handed the Boise native a central role in the team’s push for the podium with Spanish talent Marc Soler while also being granted freedom to hunt for his own results.
Also read: The classics can wait for Matteo Jorgenson
“The plan is I play key helper for Marc in the important stages where it’ll make the difference in the GC, and I plan to be ready and able to help in those days,” Jorgenson told VeloNews. “Then there’ll be days where I have a chance to go in the breakaway, and if I catch the right move, I can go for a stage result.”
Jorgenson’s place in the heart of Movistar’s “Giro Eight” is a testament to his rapid progress since hitting the WorldTour last winter, with three days in the top-6 and an eighth-place finish at Paris-Nice in March.
After initial murmurs that Jorgenson could see a GC role in Italy, Movistar reshuffled its deck in the past month.
Longtime classification contender and homegrown hero Soler will wear the captain’s armband after strong rides through Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour de Romandie. Jorgenson will play apprentice and wait for his chances further down the line.
Slotting in as super-domestique would give the 21-year-old the opportunity to find his grand tour legs without the daily burden of defending time.
“In my last couple of races I felt a bit of fatigue, especially at Coppi Bartali. I told the team how I was feeling, and we thought I’d get more out of myself at the Giro if I had some days that I could take it easier,” Jorgenson said on a phone call.
“At my age, chasing GC expends so much mental energy that you end up not having much of a chance to do anything else. You might get a top 20 in GC if you have a really good race but then have no ability to do anything on a stage or help Marc in any way.
“So it’s better overall if I have the flexibility to take days in the gruppetto and not have that stress over me – I can be of more use that way.”
Laying foundations for the future
Jorgenson punched his ticket as one of the new stage-racing hopes of American cycling at this year’s Tour de la Provence and Paris-Nice with a series of rides that turned heads through the peloton.
Though fatigue may have bitten him a few months down the road, Jorgenson doesn’t regret his big spring.
“I had really good form coming into the early part of the season just kind of unexpectedly and capitalized on it as best I could. I really used myself up in those early races. I tried to get some good results and I’m happy I did,” he said.
“I went to altitude with the team [in April] and it helped me shed a lot of the fatigue I gained through those stage races. It all depends on the last week of the Giro and how my body responds to it, but I think I’ve freshened up a lot. I’m feeling rested and ready to give my best now.”
Were Jorgenson and his team overly ambitious with his early season exploits?
Whether they were or not, Jorgenson isn’t too bothered.
A top-10 at a race as prestigious as Paris-Nice has cemented him directly in the core of Movistar’s universe of new young talents and landed him the kudos to help carry Soler’s podium ambitions.
“I gained a lot at Paris-Nice, especially the confidence in my ability to do a one-week stage race and recover day-to-day in that scope of time,” he said. “I think I can go to the next couple of years with more confidence – and it’s helped me to understand when I’m coming into form, and I can use that in future.”
With a contract through 2023 and some 15 years of racing ahead of him, Jorgenson’s grand tour debut this month will be just a taste of bigger things to come.
“I’ve been nervous, I think I have some natural nerves,” he said. “It’s all a new experience for me and I’m super-excited. And if nothing else, I can learn from it for next time.”
Jorgenson may not be fighting for GC this month, but the grand tours aren’t going anywhere just yet.
And neither is Jorgenson.