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'Small milestones and slowly believing in myself' – Jorgenson takes dream Paris-Nice title

Not since 2006 has a rider from the USA taken the overall victory at Paris-Nice until Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike) exceeded his own expectations and did just that after a stunning day of racing on stage 8.

The 24-year-old American was every bit stage winner Remco Evenepoel’s (Soudal-QuickStep) equal on each of the five climbs that lined the 109km route around Nice. Even three stinging attacks on the Côte de Peille from the former World Champion couldn’t shake the resolute Visma-Lease a Bike man.

Jorgenson would realise on the run back to Nice from Col des Quatre-Chemins just what he was about to achieve, smiling to the cameras and punching the air on home roads as a Nice local. He had bettered a field with big stars Evenepoel and other pre-race favourite Primož Roglič (Visma-Lease a Bike) with a 30-second lead after the eighth stage.

“Well at the beginning of the week, it was not my ambition to win Paris-Nice. My ambition was to do a good run in the GC and I thought a top three was possible,” said Jorgenson honestly of his pre-race expectations.

“I remember a call with the [sports] director here, Marc Reef and he would have been happy with the top ten he said but I told him a top three is what my objective was. 

“Slowly every day I guess I got a little closer, but it wasn’t until last night that it sunk in and I thought okay, now I need to win Paris-Nice. And yeah…I did it.”

Jorgenson shed some light on the situation with Evenepoel, with the agreement clearly being made between the two that they would work together with yellow jersey Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) dropped to secure both the overall and stage win respectively after a tense fight in the middle phase of racing. 

“Following Remco [Evenepoel] when he’s attacking is never really that pleasant but I expected it 100%,” Jorgenson said. 

“I thought he would go over the top of the bonus sprint at the beginning of the day, but then the day was already plenty chaotic enough before and I think he sensed that. 

“I was just kind of sitting there waiting, waiting, waiting. And it came twice or three times, I think. Eventually the third time we got rid of Brandon and that’s what I was waiting for. Once that happened I started relaying with him and I told him, he could have the stage if he rode with me. Thankfully we work together well, so it was an honour to be with such a champion.”

It was a long way for the man who grew up in Boise, Idaho but as mentioned Jorgenson couldn’t have felt more at home, finishing the stage off in second with Evenepoel just a few hundred metres away from where he lives. Battling out the biggest day of his career so far on roads he knows so well. 

“It’s the same way that I come home almost every training ride,” he said “So it’s this feeling that I have every day like the training is over and the work is done and I had the same exact feeling in the race. But it felt really good and now it’s starting to sink in a bit.”

Big victories such as this mark a landmark moment for riders, but Jorgenson isn’t getting ahead of himself, aware that it’s been a steady and hard-earned build to this career-best achievement. 

“It definitely means something. I’m not gonna sit here and say like, I’m gonna win a Grand Tour or I’m some big rider, but this week was really good,” he said.

“A few years ago, even when I turned pro, to be honest, I don’t even think I deserved to be pro. So it’s been a process of achieving small milestones and slowly believing in myself.”

Jorgenson has previously been outspoken about the efforts and investments he has made to get him to this point where he is one of the top riders in the peloton. But Visma-Lease a Bike appear the perfect match for such an ambitious rider.

“I think I’m in a team where it pushes every single rider to be their best. If you want opportunities, then you have to sacrifice for them, train your best and try to get to the best level to earn those opportunities,” Jorgenson said. 

“I think I’m in the perfect environment.”

He’s been in the top ten twice at Paris-Nice previously, but this year was a new level for the American, never looking flustered under anyone’s attacks and making consistently sound tactical decisions throughout the eight stages.

“I have made a step. I wouldn’t say it’s some crazy step. But in this team, they really just look after every single detail,” he said. 

“There’s really nothing that we’re doing that’s that no other team is doing, but I think we’re doing every single detail to the maximum. They just really have the mindset of performance first in every single regard –  our nutrition, travel and management. 

“It’s just a pleasure and it was the best decision I think I’ve made in my career joining this team.”

Jorgenson wasn’t the only Visma-Lease a Bike rider starring throughout this week with the team’s marquee rider Jonas Vingegaard dominating Tirreno-Adriatico as the Dutch team became the first ever to win both prestigious one-week stages in the same season. 

And it’s Vingegaard that Jorgenson will be proud to support at this year’s Tour de France as the Dane eyes a third title in a row. Having the American by his side is looking like quite an option as the season goes on and Jorgenson continues to step up to the plate at every opportunity. 

“A lot of people I think thought ‘what a stupid idea’ for me to go to a team where yeah, I’m gonna have to ride for Jonas [Vingegaard] at the tour’ and I think, for me, that’s a pleasure to try to win the Tour with Jonas, Jorgenson said. 

“I mean, that’d be a highlight of my career. And then to get an opportunity to win Paris-Nice, it’s something really special – so I’m really happy.”

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
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