Matteo Jorgenson wasn’t even supposed to race the Tour de France, but he didn’t hesitate when fate opened the door for him to make his Tour debut in 2022.
The ever-improving 23-year-old barged right onto center stage, riding into three winning breakaways with Team Movistar to confirm his place among the elite of the WorldTour.
“I was supposed to do the Giro. They weren’t considering me for the Tour, but I got a nasty injury in Paris-Nice,” Jorgenson told VeloNews. “It turned out to be a blessing, and took some time off , which I needed anyway.”
A muscle tear in his hamstring forced him to take three weeks off the bike, an eternity for a WorldTour pro in the middle of the season.
He spent weeks at altitude high in Andorra at a hotel at just under 2,400 meters (about 8,000 feet). Coaches saw his training numbers, and he punched his ticket to the Tour.
“I could have a clear and perfect lead-up to the Tour,” Jorgenson said. “I could just train for two months before the Dauphiné, at altitude, it was a super-focused training block all the way to the Tour, which was pretty crucial.
“For the years to come, if I am going to do the Tour I would like to mimic that, do Paris-Nice and the classics, and just stop and focus and on Tour,” he said. “I am still learning how my body reacts to these efforts.”
Jorgenson started with the goal of helping Enric Mas ride for the final podium, but Movistar brass gave him and others the green light to chase breakaways in the second week of the Tour.
Jorgenson didn’t hesitate and rode into three winning breakaways in stages 10, 13, and 16. He finished fourth twice and fifth once, results that were at once both encouraging and frustrating.
“I wasn’t expecting it for sure, but I knew I was in pretty good shape, because of the break, I was doing super good numbers in training,” he said. “I felt fresh, I was reasonably confident I would have a good Tour, but I had no idea how I would stack up.
“I did surprise myself with those breakaways,” he said. “I had no intention of trying anything personally, I was there to help Enric. We had just one objective with him, so it was surprising, and good to see where I can be on.”
In an exclusive interview with VeloNews, Jorgenson reveals the details and dynamics of each breakaway:
Stage 10, Morzine to Megève: ‘It was a fight every day for the breaks’
Mas was riding well, but it was soon becoming obvious he wasn’t going to be up for a podium challenge against the likes of Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard.
Going into the second week, sport directors gave the support riders an open road to chase breakaways. Jorgenson knew this was his chance.
“We were in a situation where Enric had lost some time by then, and we had a better idea of his potential for him, the team was allowing me and a few other guys to try to go for the breaks,” Jorgenson said.
“I went all in that day to be in the break, I felt super good that morning,” he said. “I was in every move at the start of the day. In the end, I was in the good one, and had the legs to do reasonably well in the end.”
The attacks came fast and heavy in the closing 10km as it was obvious the break was fighting for the spoils. Compatriot Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) was also in the move, and Jorgenson was surging and covering.
Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) played it smart, and saved everything for the final surge to the line to nip Nick Schultz (BikeExchange-Jayco) for the win. Luis León Sánchez (Bahrain Victorious) was third, and Jorgenson trailed across fourth at 8 seconds back.
“I didn’t play it smart, I was just following every move,” he said. “It was absurd how big of a fight it was, I tried a few days I missed the move because I was so exhausted for trying so long. There was no easy riding, it was a real fight every day.”
Stage 13, Bourg d’Oisans to Saint-Etienne: ‘I was just wrong that day’
Jorgenson had his blood up after getting a taste of a Tour breakaway, and worked himself into his second successful attack on the road to Saint-Etienne.
He’s quickly learning the racing ropes of what it takes to search out and ride into the winning breakaways at the Tour de France.
“You look at the route to see if there are places where it will be selective,” Jorgenson said. “Towns are good places and it lines out, so if you’re at the back, you have no chance.
“That day it just went on a point when everyone who couldn’t go with it, and it went on one of the climbs,” he said. “I just followed Ganna, I was the last guy to hold the wheel. There wasn’t much brains to get into the breaks. No one was outsmarting anyone. It was really about just who had the legs.”
On the road to Saint-Etienne, Jorgenson simply admits he misread his rivals in the breakaway. He was marking the wheels of Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) when it was Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) who took the flowers.
Another lesson learned.
“I would cue off guys who weren’t going to be contenders, and I was just wrong that day,” he said.
Stage 16, Carcassone to Foix: ‘Fuel the fire for the victory’
Jorgenson wasn’t done yet, and there was more gas in the tank.
Once the race tilted into the Pyrénées, everyone was on their collective knees. Jorgenson rode into the day’s big move early with two first-category climbs stacked up in the back half of the stage.
Though he packs some brawn, Jorgenson can climb with the best on his day. Unfortunately, he found company with two riders from Israel-Premier Tech in Michael Woods and Hugo Houle, who was third on the stage to St-Etienne in front of Jorgenson.
“It’s always really complicated to read the race. The only way to do it is to queue off the guys who you think to be the strongest in the break, but you just don’t know where everyone is at,” he said. “Guys are different levels of fatigue.
“I need to be more in those situations,” he said. “The last day in the break in the Pyrénées, I let Hugo Houle go. In fact, I didn’t even see him go, I was in the cars getting bottles, and he was dropped earlier, and he attacked through the cars. I didn’t even know he was up there until halfway up the climb.”
Jorgenson said it’s not so cut and dry when it comes to race radio and what information is immediately available to riders on the road.
That day to Foix he said his race radio wasn’t functioning properly due to coverage blackouts, and the time splits coming on course from the commissaires were not fully accurate.
“By the time I found out he already had two minutes on us,” he said. “It ended up being too late, I couldn’t pull him back. It was 25 seconds on the top, and I took risks on the descents and crashed.
“Woods was there, and he wasn’t going to help,” Jorgenson said. “Even if I had gotten Hugo, Woods was there, then it was a situation with two teammates against me.”
It was another close call, another fourth place. Three breakaways, three top-5s.
“I was pretty upset,” Jorgenson said. “I felt like I had the legs at least on two of those days in the group I was in to do better. I didn’t have worse legs than the guys who won. It was situational. Looking back now it’s hard to be disappointed because I showed a lot. It was my first Tour, so I am happy with how it went.
“I only take positives out of it,” he said. “I have more years where I can improve. All it does is fuel the fire for the victory.”