Matteo Jorgenson on dazzling Tour of Flanders debut: ‘It was five minutes of chill and pure chaos’

US rider bridged across to lead group and battled to ninth-place finish in spectacular De Ronde debut.

Photo: Gruber Images

GHENT, Belgium (VN) — Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) was thrown in at the deep end in his first Tour of Flanders, but survived a chaotic race to finish ninth.

The American rider was involved in a mass crash that felled some star names when a Bahrain-Victorious rider attempted to pass the bunch on the grassy verge at the side of the road, but hit a pothole and sent lots of riders flying. He and the rest of the pack had already been going full gas for some time when it happened as they breakaway fought to go clear.

Jorgenson eventually clawed his way back, but then had to fight again after missing a key move that went clear over the Molenberg with some 100km still to go.

“It was really on from start to finish. There were about five minutes of chill and then pure chaos. There was the mass pileup that I was involved in, I changed bikes, chased onto the front group, and then from there it was just a lot of suffering,” Jorgenson said at the finish line.

“It was a lot harder at the start than I thought it would be. The break took forever to go and the race really started from kilometer zero and there was maybe just five minutes of chill time, and then I was caught in this big crash with [Peter] Sagan outside of Oudenaarde and had to wait and change bikes because my bike was broken.

“Thankfully, I had Ivan Romeo and he brought me back, just him. We were in a group with Alaphilippe and everyone, but they wouldn’t pull through, so it was just Romeo. He brought me back and we got back on the first time up the Kwaremont. From there, the race was just on. Eventually, on the Molenberg I was just too far back going in, I missed the selection and this was a mistake.”

Also read:

With some strong contenders up the road, including Mads Pedersen and compatriot Neilson Powless, Jorgenson had to take matters into his own hands and dig deep into his reserves to bridge the gap.

The effort it took to get across would have ramifications and he had little left in the tank as the race returned to Oudenaarde for the final time.

“I just didn’t have anyone there to position me and I got swarmed. I knew I needed to make this group because every team was represented except us,” Jorgenson said. “I went on the Berendries and I just went full gas from bottom to top with [Benoît] Cosnefroy on the wheel and we made it across, but this cost me everything.

“I went full, it was probably two minutes all out, and from then on every single cobbled climb, I felt this effort. It was just about holding on and making the selections and just a lot of suffering.”

Matteo Jorgenson had to dig deep
Matteo Jorgenson had to dig deep (Photo: Chris Auld)

Sunday’s men’s race was a good one for U.S. riders, with Powless also making it into that attack over the Molenberg. Both riders have enjoyed a strong classics campaign with Jorgenson taking fourth at the E3 Saxo Classic and Powless reaching the podium at Dwars door Vlaanderen just a few days before De Ronde.

Jorgenson enjoyed duking it out with his compatriot, though he knew he didn’t have the power to outgun him in the run for the line. In the end, Powless won the top American prize by claiming fifth place with Jorgenson slotting into ninth.

“It was cool. Neilson is super strong. We have similar rider types, so we always find each other in similar places in races, so it’s cool,” he said. “In the final, he was playing around with us and I was making him pull through, I was taking him off the back a bit so he couldn’t skip pulls, but in the end, he has a way better sprint.

“I knew I had to do something to try and get away from him in the final but it was a headwind. I was trying to look for the moment, but I had nothing in the legs.

“I would have had to get ahead beforehand, but I had literally nothing. The last time up the Paterberg, if it was 10 meters longer I would not have been in that group. I gave everything to be there. Every time I passed threshold in the last 10k I could feel my legs start to fill up with lactate so in the end, I’m happy with ninth.”

This year marked Jorgenson’s debut at De Ronde as well as the E3 Saxo Classic. He was keen to put a few cobbled races on his calendar this season and he’s now eager for more after finally giving them ago.

“It was good, good, really good. My objective was a top five going in, but top 10 is really good. I don’t have a lot of experience in this race and experience counts for a lot,” Jorgenson said.

“I would love to come back. I love these races, they really make you a better bike racer and they just take a lot of character to make it through them and I really like them. I would love to come back.”

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.