How injury opened the door to the Tour de France for Matteo Jorgenson
A torn hamstring derailed Jorgenson's return to Giro d'Italia and looked set to smoke his season — until it opened opportunity for prestigious Tour debut.
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When Matteo Jorgenson tore a hamstring at Paris-Nice this winter, his anticipated return to the Giro d’Italia went up in smoke.
But as one grand tour goal spluttered and guttered, a newer, fiercer flame was sparked.
By being forced off the bike and into a reduced training program for the best part of a month, the Idahoan’s schedule was opened to the potential of a high-profile Tour de France debut with Movistar Team this summer.
“It’s kind of funny, I might do the Tour because of the injury and all the time off I had to take. The Tour probably would never have been possible if all that didn’t happen,” Jorgenson told VeloNews.
“I’m on the ‘long team,’ but with the Tour, you have to be one of the best. So I’m trying to put my head down now to get back to a good level to show the team that I am ready for that,” Jorgenson added.
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After starting the season as a certainty for Movistar’s Giro d’Italia squad, Jorgenson has now been thrown into a small pool of Movistar riders scrapping for a high-profile ride at the 2022 Tour, alongside yellow jersey contender Enric Mas.
Even to be up for contention for a spot at a race that can make careers and secure future contracts is testament to the long-legged strides the rangy American has taken since joining Movistar at the start of 2020.
“It feels super good to even make the list. It’s just surprising I guess. Only four years ago when I was an under-23 I didn’t really even think I belonged in the pros,” Jorgenson said in a recent call.
“It’s been a slow mental shift over the past few years, combined with just putting my head down and working pretty hard. And with that, my mindset changed little by little.
“It’s crazy to think that in my head, I now believe that I should do the Tour. If I would have thought that as a junior it would have seemed crazy.”
‘There’s positives and negatives with everything:’ One door shuts, another door opens
Jorgenson followed hot on the heels of fellow young American Tour de France graduates Sepp Kuss, and Neilson Powless in recent years.
Like Kuss and Co., Jorgenson’s trajectory skyrocketed since his first full season in the WorldTour.
A top-20 in his first-ever monument at Milan-San Remo in the summer of 2020, and eighth overall in last year’s Paris-Nice set the tone for a continued upward progression that only hit a hurdle at the “Race to the Sun” in March 2022.
A heavy crash in a crosswind-riddled second stage of Paris-Nice tweaked Jorgenson’s hamstring and resulted in problems far more severe. A nagging pain initially diagnosed as tendinitis intensified through a full-gas week in France, and Jorgenson was eventually forced onto the sidelines as the race closed on the French riviera.
“I flipped with my bike while my foot was still in the pedal, and somehow it put enough tension on my hamstring to tear it,” Jorgenson explained. “The only way that I figured that happened is because my cleat on that side was in a completely different place on my shoe – it had been totally wrenched from where it had been bolted into place,” he said.
In the heat of the race, without access to an MRI scan, and oblivious to the damage, Jorgenson continued to chase the competition’s young rider’s jersey after wearing the white top for two days.
“What I know now is that I was just tearing it [the hamstring] more every single pedal stroke, and bit by bit displacing the tendon,” he said.
Top that off with a coinciding bout of sickness, and Jorgenson was forced off the bike for nearly three weeks before a slow restart in the saddle. And with the loss of condition, his ticket to the Giro d’Italia was torn up.
But it seems Jorgenson had already done enough to open a door to something more.
Three top-10 finishes at this winter’s Tour de la Provence and a red-hot ride through seven-eighths of Paris-Nice had seen him scribbled into Movistar directors’ Tour de France notepads.
Also read: Jorgenson says he’s ‘stepped up’ after fourth at Tour de la Provence
A ride at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June will see the Boise-native racing for promotion to Movistar’s final “Tour eight” from a provisional list of around 10 riders.
“There are positives and negatives with everything,” Jorgenson said. “This kind of gave me a decent little break in the middle in the spring and took some of the pressure off. I didn’t have to go to any more races and could take two to three weeks off the bike.
“Now it could work out to where I’m actually in better shape in the middle of the summer than I would have been. Now I’m just really focused on making the best of it.”
Jorgenson is now back in full training with a healed-up hamstring.
Every newly healthy pedal stroke takes him toward a tilt at the Tour de France.