Matteo Jorgenson battles injury and stomach problems in race of survival at Paris-Roubaix

The American had to stop twice for a 'nature break' after developing stomach problems mid-race. He also crashed in training the day before.

Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

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ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Matteo Jorgenson had a debut Paris-Roubaix to remember.

Jorgenson’s Paris-Roubaix story was more than just about conquering the slippery, muddy conditions. The American rider finished with quite a story to tell after crashing hard in training the day before the race and developing stomach problems during it.

Despite it all, the 22-year-old made it all the way to the Roubaix velodrome, within the time cut but well down the standings after his trials and tribulations.

Also read: Sonny Colbrelli wins Paris-Roubaix in muddy, brutal conditions

“I crashed in training yesterday on a corner. A car was pulling out and I slipped at about 40 or 50kph. I woke up this morning and my hand and my hip were already f***ed up. I honestly didn’t think I would finish at all,” Jorgenson explained inside the velodrome, still smiling through the mud caked on his face. “I thought I would get in the early break and then pull out when I could. I got in the early break and then I thought behind must be carnage.

“In the first kilometer, my radio stopped working. I thought that behind they must be all crashing, so I just kept riding and riding. I only had gels in the first four hours, I couldn’t eat anything else. My stomach got super bad, and I had to stop for a nature break, a number two, two times. I’ve never done that in a race, and I hope to never do that again.”

The day’s breakaway took a long time to get going but Jorgenson was one of almost 30 riders to get up the road.

With Lizzie Deignan’s long-range victory in the women’s race Saturday, getting into the break looked like a good move. Indeed, the second-place finisher was one of those that went away with Jorgenson after around 50km to go, but the American’s stomach had other ideas for him.

Also read: Lizzie Deignan on Paris-Roubaix Femmes triumph: ‘We are part of history now, there’s no going back’

After getting dropped from the lead group, Jorgenson tagged onto the power chase of Mathieu van der Poel and Sonny Colbrelli. However, he was dropped from that group too and it became a long and lonely slog to the line.

“It was the right move. I was in the group and then I just had to pull over, there was nothing else to it. After that, I couldn’t eat anything, my stomach was f***ed still,” he said.

“I would either go in my shorts or whatever, so I stopped. That’s when I disappeared from the breakaway. I just kept riding and eventually, I was just alone in the last 40k. I was just going as hard as I could. It was the last race of the season, so I just kept going. It feels amazing to finish.”

A debut in the rain

Prior to Sunday, Jorgenson had only ridden Paris-Roubaix once before in the U23 category, an event that he didn’t finish. It meant that he had little experience of the race in the dry, let alone contending with it in the pouring rain.

Worried about causing himself a further injury, he wanted to get away from the mass of marauding bike riders as quickly as possible, one way or another.

“When you start and it’s raining from the start, and you know it’s going to rain the whole day… we saw with the ladies that it was barely wet on some of the sectors, and it was complete carnage,” he said. “Put 200 of us down a sector and it’s going to be complete carnage.

Also read: Thrills and spills at Paris-Roubaix Femmes: Less than half finish, and 44 miss time cut

“I told myself that I was going to get in the break or, if I was in the peloton, pull out before the first sector because I didn’t want to start my off-season with a broken collarbone. I actually sprinted about 50 minutes in and I looked back and there were 20 guys in a big split. We just kept riding and, somehow, I was in the break. From there, I was just riding as hard as I could for the rest of the day.”

In the end, Jorgenson was one of the few riders that ended the day without having a coming together with the pavé.

“It was absurd. You have no control of your bike, like zero control. All you hope to do is let the wheel go where it wants to, and you’ve got to stay light on the bars. You’re just avoiding people and I don’t know how I didn’t go down. It felt like a cyclocross race,” Jorgenson said.

“A lot of the sectors were like surfing on your bike. It was an absurdity. Your rear wheel was just going left, right, left and I don’t know how I stayed upright.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.