Road

Matteo Jorgenson delivers on promise with top-20 at Sanremo

Movistar rookie marks best U.S. result since 2013 with 17th in Italian monument.

Matteo Jorgenson delivered on his promise by smashing into the top-20 on Saturday in his debut at Milano-Sanremo.

The 21-year-old American neo-pro on Movistar hung with the big boys up and over the Poggio in a grueling edition of the Italian monument to cross the line on the Via Roma in 17th spot with the front group of sprinters. That was good for the best American result since Taylor Phinney was seventh in 2013.

“I started the day with no pressure, but freedom,” Jorgenson told VeloNews. “I know sprinting is my major weak point, so I took the inside on the last corner and started the sprint as far up as I could. I didn’t have much in the end, but I am quite happy with a top- 20 for my first time.”

The result confirms why Movistar signed Jorgenson to a two-year contract, making him the first American to ride with the Spanish franchise since Andy Hampsten in the 1990s.

Jorgenson returned to Europe following the coronavirus lockdown intent on soaking up as much racing as he could. He started Strade Bianche and Gran Trittico Lombardo, where he finished 21st in the front chase group, before lining up in Milan for the start.

Heat and distance were key factors Saturday, and Jorgenson did all he could to save his matches for the final explosive 30 minutes of racing.

“I’ve had some bad experiences with racing in the heat in the past, like the Tour de l’Avenir last year,” he said. “So I was pretty stressed all day about fluids.”

Jorgenson went back to the team car six or seven times during the race to fetch water bottles, and was “constantly pouring water on my head and drinking. It paid off, and I had really good legs in the final.”

“The positioning fight was insane,” he explained. “It started about 80km out at the top of the Nava climb before the descent and didn’t end until the Poggio.

“I fought hard and was able to descend Nava in the first 20 and stayed up in the front for the Cipressa,” he continued. “I made the selection on the Cipressa so I knew I was on a good day, but 1km before the Poggio a large group caught us and I got swarmed. I entered the Poggio almost last in the group.”

Jorgenson looked around, and saw former world champion Philippe Gilbert — who was racing to try to become just the fourth rider to win all five monuments — also dangling off the back. The neo-pro wisely hitched a ride on the experienced superstar’s wheel.

“Thankfully Gilbert was in the same position and I followed him for the huge effort of weaving through all the riders blowing up,” he described. “I went over the top of the Poggio the last rider in the front group.”

At 6-foot-1, Jorgenson is similar in build and size to Phinney, so it’s no fluke that he could deliver a similar result to the now-retired Phinney in the Italian monument.

Jorgenson also revealed an interesting detail. In a normal season, Milano-Sanremo is already the longest race at around 292km on the traditional course. Route changes, however, made it even longer Saturday.

Jorgenson’s bike calculator revealed, along with the neutral start, he raced 315km in 7 hours and 45 minutes.

It was his longest ride ever in his life — training or racing.