Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Matteo Jorgenson wasn’t even born yet when Andy Hampsten raced one unhappy season with Banesto in 1995.
Until this season, Hampsten was the only American to race with the Spanish franchise that’s since morphed into the powerful Movistar team.
Looking to broaden its international image, Movistar brass were looking for a young American to fit into their roster.
They tapped Jorgenson, who was born in 1999 — three years after Hampsten retired — and the team couldn’t be happier. So far, the 21-year-old has exceeded expectations at every step of his on-again, off-again rookie season.
The 21-year-old American on Movistar hung with the big boys up and over the Poggio in a grueling edition of Milano-Sanremo to cross the line on the Via Roma in 17th spot with the front group of sprinters. That was good for the best American result since Taylor Phinney was seventh in 2013.
VeloNews recently caught up with Jorgensen, here what he had to say about his interesting journey to become just the team’s second American.
VeloNews: So how did things go for you during the lockdown, and how does it feel to be back in Europe?
Matteo Jorgenson: I’ve been up in Andorra with the Tour de France long-team to train. I’m not slated for the Tour, but it was a chance to be with some of the riders and staff. I live in Nice with Will Barta. I was living before in Chambery when I was racing with a French team there, and I have a long-term visa, so it’s easy for me to get back into France. I went home as soon as it was going to be obvious that I wouldn’t be able to ride outside here in Europe with the lockdown. Will and I both went home. We’re both from Boise, Idaho, so I went home with my parents, and just buckled down with training.
VN: You made the big jump to the WorldTour, how did your first races go?
MJ: I only raced the Tour of Colombia and the opening Belgian weekend before everything shut down. I felt good in Colombia, and had a good opening weekend in Belgium [24th at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne]. I felt I was getting into a groove, and then everything stopped.
VN: How did you land at Movistar?
I never had any flashy junior results that got me noticed by the big teams. I always had the confidence I could race at this level, but I never had that one good ride to show it. I was racing with the U.S. national team and raced 2018 with Jelly Belly. That helped me get on with a French team in Chambéry. I was based there, learned French, and really had a great race program. I had some good results in 2019 [fourth at the Ronde d’Isoard and 17th at Tour de l’Avenir], and my agent started talking to different teams. We got an offer from Movistar, and I went for it.
VN: I think you’re the first American on the Movistar franchise for a long time, maybe all the way back to Andy Hampsten in the 1990s?
MJ: As far as what they’ve told me on the team, Hampsten was the only other American on Movistar. Part of the initiative came from Eusebio’s son, Sebastian, who wanted a more international vision for the team. This is a big rebuilding year for the team as well, so they’ve signed a lot of younger, more international riders from parts of the world they had really explored before. There are also some U.S. sponsors on the team, so they were interested in an American rider. It’s still a very Spanish team. I spent a few weeks with the team in Pamplona, and then did a training camp near Calpe. I am trying my hardest to learn Spanish. With my French background, the grammar is very similar, so I am picking it up.
VN: So you’re on a two-year neo-pro deal, what has the team told you about schedules and racing?
MJ: Well, everything keeps getting changed around, but the general idea is that they wanted to give me a good breadth of races. I’ll do some medium-length stage races and some of the classics. I’m the youngest rider on the team, so they don’t want to put me into a crazy amount of race days or throw me into a grand tour straight away. Right now, we’re just hoping to get some racing in this year.
VN: So what kind of rider do you see yourself becoming?
MJ: When I was a junior I was a pure climber because I was small and skinny. Every year since I was 17 I’ve grown a ridiculous amount in height, and I’ve added extra weight. My power is increasing, but so is my weight and height. Every year I have a different objective. To be honest, I am not sure what kind of rider I am. I am 190cm (74¾ inches), 70-71kg (154-156lbs), so I will never be a pure climber. We are still trying to figure that out. Movistar and I have had this approach, let’s try some different types of races this year, and it should be pretty clear what I can do well.
VN: How was it getting thrown into the opening Belgian weekend? No nerves there, huh?
MJ: I really enjoyed it a lot. I was pretty petrified because I had done a few U23 races up in Belgium, but nothing at that level before. I liked it a lot. It’s really dynamic and good racing, not so predictable like a lot of climbing races. I am trying to look at any race to get an opportunity, and hopefully, something will come out of it. I got into the break at Omloop, and I had a free role at Kuurne. I was in the front group and it suited me surprisingly well. I don’t have a great sprint, but I can ride hard for a long time. Just about any long aerobic effort suits me pretty well.
VN: How did you get into racing?
MJ: I was in a junior club in Boise. My brother was really into racing, and he’s five years older than me, and that was my sport from a very young age. I tried basketball in middle school, but I was never any good. I found that I was pretty good at cycling, and I started to fall in love with the sport. I never dreamed of becoming a professional. I watched the Tour de France on TV, but I never thought about it seriously until I started doing some of the races around the nation. It became a dream, and it definitely is now. My brother was on the national team, and he went through the USA Cycling system. He stopped when he was 18 at worlds, and went to college instead of pursuing pro cycling. I remember him coming home from trips to Belgium with national teams with these crazy stories of kermesses, and it fueled my love for cycling.
VN: So you’re quite close to Will Barta on CCC Team?
MJ: Will Barta was a bit of ahead of me, and we always rode together. He’s a few years older than me, and he was always just a bit stronger than me. He was always ahead of me in USA Cycling pipeline, and he’s been a big mentor for me.