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Jorgenson lands third in GC after Paris-Nice opener with surprise bonus seconds

Stage 1 of Paris-Nice was just the third race day of the season for Matteo Jorgenson, riding in his new Visma-Lease a Bike colours, and it was a solid day at the office for the young team leader. The 24-year-old rider from the United States may have gone unnoticed with 15th in the swarm of riders crossing the finish line together in Les Mureaux, but he joined his teammate and stage winner Olav Kooij on the first GC podium of the eight-day race.

While Kooij stole the spotlight for his sprint victory and a trifecta of award jerseys – overall, points and youth classifications – Jorgenson was satisfied with a late-race move where he collected pivotal bonus seconds. 

He sat third in the overall standings, within four seconds of Kooij, at the end of the opening day of racing. Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek), who was second on the stage in a margin just short of a photo finish, was tied on time with the Idaho native and held second overall. 

“It’ll be aggressive,” was how Jorgenson summed up the next seven days of racing at Paris-Nice, as he finds himself among the titans of the ‘race to the sun’, which include World Champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) 2023 Giro d’Italia champion Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe), who won Paris-Nice in 2022, and Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), the 2019 Paris-Nice winner.

Jorgenson said the key part of the race for him came at the 140-kilometre mark, at the bonus sprint at Montainville with 18km to go. The short uncategorised climb (0.7km at 8.1%) offered the only intermediate sprint of the stage at its crest. 

“It wasn’t my intention before the stage to go for the bonus seconds. I thought, for sure, Primoz [Roglič] and Remco [Evenepoel] were up there. I was basically third or fourth in the corner. I think Moscon or someone from QuickStep did a little bit of a leadout for [the intermediate sprint]. I just went for it and I was actually surprised that I got it,” Jorgenson said after the finish.

“But yeah, Mick [Van Dijke] did a super good job into the corner. I was there, so I didn’t look back.”

Evenepoel was second across the sprint line, having used a lead-out by teammate Casper Pedersen, and Bernal was third, each eager to scoop up as many seconds as possible. From there, Jorgenson said the stage was a bit of a frenzy as the momentum carried him, Evenepoel and Bernal to a small gap over the field. Now they had to deal with a final category 3 climb, Côte d’Herbeville, just 5.5km from the Montainville sprint, and leave something for the final 3km uphill to the finish.

“Basically, Remco wanted to keep going, but we still had a wall for the sprint [at the finish], so I wasn’t gonna pull with him and it all came back together.”

When Jorgenson crossed the finish line on the uphill into Les Mureaux, he had Bernal and Roglič on his back wheel. Evenepoel finished safely in the bunch in 26th position. 

“It was chaotic,” Jorgensen told media, referring to the race’s final 18 kilometres. “I had no part in the lead-out. I can’t take any responsibility. It was the two Van Dyke brothers who did a super-good job. And I had a super clear [path] with the roundabouts in the final.

“It looked like Olav entered in perfect position. I almost got in their way a bit at the end, but then he won, so it was a good day.”

Evenepoel is two seconds behind Jorgenson in fifth place overall, while Bernal is sixth, another pair of seconds back, and Roglič trails the US rider by a mere six seconds.

“At Paris-Nice, I want to take the next step as a GC rider. I have twice finished eighth in the final standings here. I hope to do better this year,” the young all-rounder said just prior to the race start in a suburb of Paris. 

“I am secretly aiming for a top-five finish, but that does not mean I will be dissatisfied with a top-10 result. A stage win is also high on the wish list.”

“The final weekend is always tough. It is where the final standings are decided. It is important to do well there. I have been looking forward to the final stage in and around Nice for a long time. The finish line is within walking distance of my home. It would be great to return home satisfied after this edition of Paris-Nice.”

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
AUTHOR: jackie.tyson@futurenet.com
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