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MANTES-LA-VILLE, France (VN) – A very impressive eighth on his debut in Paris-Nice last year, Matteo Jorgenson has returned to “The Race to the Sun” as the GC leader for his Movistar team.
It is a status he describes “a big honor” and for which he’s prepared by spending the last three weeks training on the roads around his home in Nice where the race is set to be decided next weekend.
“I’m super excited to be here again. It’s a big honor to be a leader for the team again. It’s huge for me,” the 22-year-old Californian said just prior to the start of the opening stage, where he finished 25th, 22 seconds behind Jumbo-Visma’s breakaway trio of Christophe Laporte, Wout van Aert, and Primož Roglič, but alongside most of the rest of the GC favorites. “I feel really good and I’m definitely in form.”
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Jorgenson demonstrated his form in finishing fourth overall at the Tour de la Provence in mid-February, where he rode to third on the race-deciding summit finish on the Montagne de Lure that was won by Nairo Quintana.
“Provence gave me a lot of confidence. To be honest, it was surprising because I didn’t think I was in as good shape as that. So, it shows that I made a big step up this winter,” Jorgenson explained.
“It seems as if no matter what I do in the winter, and even though this year I tried to take it a lot lighter in December and January, I’m always in form in February and March.”
That suits the American given that Paris-Nice, an event that complements his all-around qualities extremely well, is his first major objective of the season.
“I really like this race. It has a little bit of everything – there are crosswinds, a time trial, it’s always chaotic in the first couple of days, and then in the last couple of days it has the mountains, and even those are stressful hilly stages. It’s a cool, really diverse race,” he said.
Even better for the Nice-based rider, it finishes on roads that he’s got to know extremely well. “I’ll be at home in the last few days and that’s definitely very nice,” Jorgenson acknowledged. “In the three weeks since Provence, I’ve been preparing at home for this race pretty specifically.”
During that period, he’s got to know Paris-Nice’s last two stages very well. The first, next Saturday, finishes at the summit of the Col de Turini, a climb similar in length and gradient to the Montagne de Lure. The second is the short, fast, and frantic finale in the hills behind Nice.
“I’ve done the Turini four or five times between Provence and now,” Movistar’s American revealed. “It’s a hard climb. There are four sides to it and I think the side we do is the most regular, with the steadiest gradient. It’s pretty steep — seven percent average — but it’s a pretty good side for me. There are no pitches where it’s like crazy steep, so it should suit me well.
“Until then, it’s just a case of staying out of trouble, as always. It’s about taking advantage of these windy stages. I’m a bigger guy, so if I can make a front split when other climbers can’t, that’d be helpful.”