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Young Americans continue to show confidence and legs at Critérium du Dauphiné

Matteo Jorgenson hanging tough in top-10, with Kevin Vermaerke and Brandon McNulty shine in the Alps.

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VAUJANY, France (VN) — Young Americans continue to shine at the Critérium du Dauphiné with a chance to race the Tour de France just weeks away.

Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) hung with the big boys in Saturday’s summit finish to defend top-10 at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Movistar teammate Carlos Verona won the three-climb stage across the heart of the French Alps, but Movistar GC leader Enric Mas succumbed to a heavy crash from two days to tumbled out of contention to 52nd overall.

“Enric was the leader, and that crash really affected him a lot,” Jorgenson said at the line. “Half of the skin on his left-hand side was gone, and it was really hard to sleep. We were hoping for the best, he’s in such great shape. These things happen.

“It was a hard day, and I am just so happy for Carlos to get the win. He is one of the best teammates you can have.”

Also read: Jorgenson on cusp of Tour de France debut

Jorgenson started and finished the stage in eighth overall behind new leader Primož Roglič, and will hope to retain a top-10 overall in Sunday’s hors-categorie summit finish.

“Enric got dropped on the second climb, and I just had to hold on and do my best effort,” Jorgenson said.

“I actually felt pretty good all day until the last climb. Just that heat on the last climb got my heart rate way up and I couldn’t quite follow, and I had to let the wheel go and do my effort or otherwise I would have blown up.

“In general, I feel like I am at a really good level. Perhaps the best I’ve ever been.”

Young Americans on the rise

Jorgenson wasn’t the only American to elbow into the frame Saturday.

Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) uncorked a few attacks on the final climb after recovering from a puncture on the Croix de Fer. He chased back to the front group, but could not stay with the leaders when Jumbo-Visma opened up the attacks.

McNulty — who lost valuable time in Wednesday’s time trial with a mechanical — climbed up three spots to 16th overall.

Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM) also rode into the day’s main breakaway, and tried to hang on as long as he could to finish 15th on the stage.

“I didn’t expect that close to the front today,” Vermaerke said. “I just wanted to test my legs and I found myself on the front over the Galibier, and my legs felt really good.”

Vermaerke already earned a top-5 earlier in this Dauphiné, and said he’s climbing as best as he’s ever done in young professional career.

Also read: Vermaerke says near-miss breakaway effort ‘will sting for a while’

“I knew they were coming fast and it inevitable they were going to catch me. I was able to catch on for a little bit, and Matteo and Brandon caught me on the flat, and I got a bit of a draft,” Vermaerke said.

“This time last year I was in the gruppetto getting dropped on the first climb and trying to survive, and now I am racing at the front and feeling strong doing it,” Vermaerke said. “I can take a lot of confidence going into the next race.”

Jorgenson said it’s a sign of the times to see so many young Americans active in the bunch.

“This is the first time I’ve seen this many Americans at the point end of a race for a long time,” he said. “It’s amazing and it’s a testament to USA Cycling. They brought us all over here in Europe to show us how to race and it’s really showing now how valuable that is.”

All three riders — Jorgenson, McNulty and Vermaerke — are all hoping to carry this momentum and confidence into the Tour de France next month for their respective teams.