Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogačar were locked in a member’s only contest out front at the E3 Saxo Classic, but Matteo Jorgenson would prove the best of the rest by day’s end in Harelbeke, clipping away from the chasing group to claim a fine fourth place. The Movistar rider had as good a view of their flyby on the Stationberg as anybody else, and he quickly understood that there was nothing to be done but watch the elite trio glide out of sight over the crest of the hill. When a muddied Jorgenson wheeled to a halt past the finish line on Stasegemsesteenweg, he was asked to recall that sonic boom with 57km to go.
“It was just full gas and I just saw them riding away from me like that, while I was in the gutter suffering,” Jorgenson said. “Those guys are really impressive. Hopefully one day I can be at that level.
”Jorgenson is getting there, but for now, like everybody else in the peloton, he is compelled to find ways to work around the otherworldly strength of the men who filled the podium spots on Friday. Van der Poel and the day’s winner Van Aert delivered an early warning when their joust on the Taaienberg splintered the bunch with 80km to go, and when Pogacar dragged an elite group across, Jorgenson figured his best chance of avoiding their crossfire was to try to get ahead of it. Read moreE3 Saxo Classic: Wout van Aert wins battle of titans in Harelbeke ‘Don’t kill cycling’ – Jumbo-Visma defend Wout van Aert chain lube in E3 finale ‘I hope it will be a different story next Sunday’ – Tadej Pogačar close at E3 Saxo Classic “After the Taaienberg, I went solo just to get ahead of the race a little bit, because I knew that when those guys went, I probably wouldn’t be able to go with them,” Jorgenson said of his attack with 75km remaining.
“But it was probably a bad moment. I went ahead and then they caught me, and as soon as they caught me, another group attacked, and I didn’t go with it. I basically just stayed with the big guys.
When those three went, I couldn’t go with them, obviously, but I think we did the best we could. ”Van Aert, Van der Poel and Pogačar quickly established a winning advantage over a shell-shocked second group, where Soudal-QuickStep, traditionally so dominant on this terrain, were most conspicuous by their absence. Instead, Groupama-FDJ and Movistar were the only teams with multiple riders still in the hunt behind, but it was quickly apparent that they would not see the three leaders again before Harelbeke.
After the day’s final climbs, Jorgenson found himself in the company of teammate Ivan Garcia Cortina, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) and Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious). “The four of us worked well together for the last 20k, then I just attacked them with 2km to go and thankfully nobody responded,” said Jorgenson, who came home 33 seconds down, while his teammate Garcia Cortina won the sprint for fifth. “I mean, in the end, we weren’t catching those three guys in front.
We were just racing for fourth at a certain point because there was a one-minute gap with 5k to go. ”Already winner of the Tour of Oman this Spring, Jorgenson caught the eye at Paris-Nice last week, where he was on the offensive on the final day en route to eighth place overall, and the 23-year-old’s ability across all terrains means his career could ultimately take him in any number of directions. His previous experience on the cobbles of Belgium was limited to a brace of appearances at Opening Weekend, but he was keen to test himself further in Harelbeke.
“I had really great legs and I knew this race was one of the hardest Classics. I thought it was really good for me and I came to Belgium just for this, so it was super nice,” said Jorgenson, who is set to make his Tour of Flanders debut next week. On the evidence of the dress rehearsal, he can look to the main event with optimism.
“I’m super happy with that, it’s a big result for me. I’m starting to like these races more and more. They are chaotic and all about positioning and I think those things suit me well.