Matteo Jorgenson’s dirty day at Paris-Roubaix
Movistar’s Matteo Jorgenson was one of 60 riders racing their debut Paris-Roubaix at the long-awaited 118th edition. That meant that a third of the peloton had never raced the infamous cobbles of northern France, but then again, the remaining 114 starters had never raced it in the wet, so the whole peloton was entering the unknown. In short, it was carnage.
“Guys were crashing left and right in the breakaway,” Jorgenson told reporters in the Roubaix velodrome. “I don’t know how I got through without crashing.”
While three of his fellow debutants climbed onto the podium, Jorgenson was partly responsible for laying the groundwork earlier in the race. And all because his objective was to stay out of trouble.
“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 yesterday, it was barely wet on some of the sectors and it was complete carnage,” the American explained. “You put 200 of us down a sector and there’s gonna be complete carnage. So I told myself I’d get in the break, and if I’m in the peloton, I’d pull out before the first sector because I really didn’t want to start my off-season with a broken collarbone or something.
“Actually I did a move, I just sprinted like 50 minutes in, just sprinting, sprinting, sprinting, and I looked back, and there are 20 guys in a big split. We just started riding, and somehow I was in the early break. And then from there I was just riding as hard as I could the rest of the day.”
Jorgenson spent more than 100 km among the 30 escapees. After 50 km on tarmac, he found himself in a chasing group behind the leaders after a few cobbled sectors, all the pavé bearing the damage of nearly 24 hrs of fairly consistent rainfall.
“It was absurd, you have no control over your bike, at all. Zero control,” Jorgenson described his experience of riding the cobbled sectors of the ‘Hell of the North’. “All you hope to do is let the wheel kind of go where it wants to and just stay light on the bars, and then you’re just avoiding people left and right. I don’t know how I didn’t go down, it felt like a cyclocross race.”
Ten cobbled sectors and 160 km into the race, the 22-year-old was caught on the iconic Trouée d’Arenberg by Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and company, who he stuck for an indeterminate number of kilometres. Jorgenson was last seen on the wheel of eventual winner Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious) just before the Italian went on the attack about 85 km out.
“I was in the group and then I just had to pull over and do a number two, I mean, there’s nothing else to it,” Jorgenson admitted. “And after that, I could barely eat anything, my stomach was just completely f***ed.”
As the riders entered the velodrome, some in small groups, some one by one, barely a man among them stayed upright as what they’d just been through overcame them. Every face was caked in drying mud, bodies and bikes were battered and bent out of shape. Jorgenson crossed the line 63rd (of 94 who finished inside the time limit) and was ready to celebrate much more than just staying upright.
I’m just super happy to finish. I had no expectation of doing really anything, or even finishing.”