Matteo Jorgenson was locked, loaded and in sight of a debut pro victory. However, just as the 21-year-old American was bracing to unleash his kick to the line at the second stage of the Tour de la Provence, he was brought down by a collision with a spectator hanging over the race barriers.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s really disappointing,” he said after the stage Friday.
Though the young Movistar rouleur emerged unscathed, the crash cast a shadow over Jorgenson’s promising ride through a rain-slicked finale in France, and again throws the issue of rider safety into the spotlight.
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Having punched clear in a two-man escape with Lotto-Soudal’s Florian Vermeersch in the final 10 kilometers of the tough classics-style stage, Jorgenson was swept up as the peloton charged toward a tough uphill sprint finish. The rangy Idahoan sat in, navigated through a crash that brought down Julian Alaphilippe and Aleksandr Vlasov, and positioned himself in preparation for the final kick.
“I was fourth or fifth wheel behind (Alexey) Lutsenko and they were slowly coming to the left,” Jorgenson said of the final three hundred meters. “Lutsenkno had been on the front so was gassed and was veering to the left. I was on the left side of his bike and the barrier was on my left.”
“I got pushed a little bit too close to the barrier and as I was braking I got hit by a spectator’s arm or bag or something and it hit my front brake and my handlebars turned and I went straight over the bars,” he continued.
Overhead footage shows Jorgenson boxed in and forced into the path of a spectator leaning across the barriers. Jorgenson clattered to the floor to leave his shot at a debut WorldTour podium similarly derailed.
Jorgenson later took to social media to call out the issue and question the UCI’s priorities in safeguarding the peloton, referencing the much-maligned recent ban of two popular aerodynamic riding positions.
“Sucks to miss out on a real chance at my first pro win like that,” he wrote on Twitter. “Let’s all refocus on the real safety problems in our sport UCI. Barriers, road furniture; NOT RIDER POSITION.”
Sucks to miss out on a real chance at my first pro win like that. Let’s all refocus on the real safety problems in our sport @UCI_cycling Barriers, road furniture; NOT RIDER POSITION https://t.co/JcuF8dCqLZ
— Matteo Jorgenson (@MatteoJorg) February 12, 2021
Jorgenson’s Tweet is one of several recent examples of riders urging officials to reassess its focus in the policing of safety.
Egan Bernal and Michal Kwiatkowski railed against the bans of riding positions at last week’s Étoile de Bessèges, and several voices in the bunch took to social media having had to negotiate several unmarked obstacles in the chaotic final of stage 1 of the Provence tour.
Although Jorgenson’s attacking ride may have ended on the asphalt, it marked an encouraging start to his sophomore season with his Spanish team.
Last year, the Boise native punched into the top-20 at Milano Sanremo and went on to take a string of confident finishes through both the Flemish and Ardennes classics. Having proven his potential as a one-day racer, the 21-year-old now faces the looming presence of a 15-kilometer haul to Chalet Reynard on the slopes of Mont Ventoux for the third stage in Provence.
After missing out on a chance to truly test his climbing legs in 2020, all 190cm and 70kg of Jorgenson will be diving into unknown territory on the slopes of the Ventoux on Saturday as he continues to discover himself as a rider.
“Tomorrow’s Ventoux so it’s my first real mountain top finish test, so I’ll just try my best,” he said.