MONTAGNE DE LURE, France (VN) – Although he was half-frozen in the aftermath of a huge effort to the exposed mountain-top finale of the Tour de la Provence, the delight on Matteo Jorgenson’s face was plain to see after he had finished fourth overall behind two-time Tour runner-up Nairo Quintana, world champion Julian Alaphilippe, and Trek’s Mattias Skjelmose.
After he’d finished 16th in the time trial at Berre L’Étang, the 22-year-old American had told VeloNews that he was essentially flying under the radar in Provence. He’d be given a free role by his Movistar team, which was focused on supporting the chances of defending champion Iván Sosa.
However, when the Colombian failed to make it into the front group the next day in the crosswinds through the Camargue marshlands, Jorgenson became the Spanish squad’s only GC hope.
“For most of the week I was kind of just doing my own race,” Jorgenson confirmed after Provence’s Montagne de Lure finale, where both he and Sosa had been protected riders, with the Colombian targeting the stage win.
“Today, the team was looking after me and Iván at the same time, which was great. I feel pretty privileged to have had that support. It’s one of my first times ever being a leader, and it felt really good.”
Like Danish prospect Skjelmose, the rangy Californian had watched footage of the two Paris-Nice finishes atop the Montagne de Lure and felt the steady rather than steep climb would suit his qualities as a powerful rouleur.
“Thankfully, they did a pretty constant effort and didn’t really accelerate too much,” said Jorgenson. “There was a moment when Arkéa started to really go for it to set up Quintana, and then Nairo launched off them, and at that point, I just had to let them go for a second and do my own ride because I couldn’t stay at 550 watts for that long.
“Thankfully, the Trek kid Skjelmose had some teammates with him, so I just followed and they basically did my perfect pace. So it was just a case of watching my power meter and making sure I wasn’t going into the red.”
Jorgenson explained that he’d gone into Provence with the feeling that his condition was better than it had been last year, when he took a string of impressive results, including an eighth overall at Paris-Nice.
“I felt better this winter already, but it’s hard to know where you are until you actually do it and give it your all,” he said.
“Also, last year was my first complete season in the WorldTour, and a lot of these European guys have had 50 to 60 race days a year since they were 16 or 17 years old. Being an American, I never had that – probably my most ever was 20. As a result, last year was my first year with a real complete season of 65 days, and I think it did a lot for me, and I then made a big adaptation after the off-season. My hope now is that I just keep improving.”
Paris-Nice in early March is the American’s next objective. He’s also penciled in for a return to the Giro d’Italia, where he made his grand tour debut last season.