Transfer of the season? The mechanics of Bob Jungels' move to Etixx

Luxembourger's strong Tour de France sees Trek lose control

The previous transfer window was effectively dominated by three key moves: Richie Porte to BMC, Michal Kwiatkowski to Team Sky and Mark Cavendish to Dimension Data. Bob Jungels' transfer from Trek to Etixx-QuickStep went largely unnoticed but anyone who has witnessed the 23-year-old apply his talent over the Giro d'Italia's first 11 stages will have been impressed. Transfer of the season? Only time – and perhaps the next two weeks at the Giro – will tell.

The Luxembourg rider's move to Etixx came down to a number of factors. First and foremost, team manager Patrick Lefevere was on the lookout for a new, 'highly talented', and 'cheaper' version of Kwiatkowski, who he was resigned to losing to Team Sky. Lefevere and Jungels had crossed paths before, back when a young junior had caught the eyes of the talent scouts at the Bakala academy. Fate would intervene in that instance, with the recently-formed Luxembourg Leopard set-up tugging Jungels into their ranks.

Back to the summer of 2015 and Jungels put himself in the frame to replace the spot vacated by the outgoing Kwiatkowski thanks to his ride at the Tour de France, where a strong final week, including 13th on the stage to Alpe d'Huez, turned the heads of a number of team managers.

At the time Trek believed that they had already reached an agreement with the rider and his agent, Gary McQuaid. In June, after Jungels had finished a highly creditable 6th overall in the Tour de Suisse, the team drew up a new contract offer and presented it.

Cyclingnews understands from one source that there was a verbal agreement, and that Jungels would re-sign for an additional two years on a slightly higher wage. McQuaid states that it was a one-year deal that was offered.

Part of the problem was the word 'slightly'. Trek's position was rather pragmatic but also fair. Jungels, who had been with the team's development programme since 2012 and had won junior World Championships time trial gold in 2010, had been paid well in 2013 and 2014 despite sporadic results. After his ride in the Tour de Suisse, Trek's management decided to keep faith, offer their young rider a new deal, and tie him down for the future.

So what changed? Well, the Tour came around and, though Jungels had an offer in his back pocket from Trek, he was still eligible to listen to other teams.

The first half of the race was relatively uneventful. Jungels got through to the first rest day in 137th place, 41 minutes down on race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky). On stage 14 he found his rhythm, skipping into the break and finishing 8th on the same day Steve Cummings took a memorable victory for MTN-Qhubeka. Jungels was now 61st overall.

Two days later he was at it again, escaping in the race-winning break to Gap and finishing fifth. He was now inside the top 40 overall and suddenly the contract offer that looked appealing back in June was shrouded in hesitancy and doubt. Cyclingnews understands that the relationship between the rider and his team changed during the Tour – principally straight after Jungels began to pick up results.

He would push back when the team asked him about his contract during the race, saying that he wanted to focus on the Tour. Trek could sense that they were losing control.

Away from the race and McQuaid had talked to Dave Brailsford at Team Sky, Jim Ochowicz at BMC Racing and Lefevere at Etixx, sounding them out and making them aware of Jungels' contract position. That's nothing new. At the start of each season every agent worth their salt and signing-on fees draws up a list of their out-of-contract clients and sends it out to every manager. Most lists would be read over breakfast, stuck on fridge doors, with a few names either circled or crossed out.

Back to the Tour and on stage 17 Jungels conceded a few minutes but the following day, when Romain Bardet took the stage in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, he finished fourth. He was now inside the top 30 overall and fifth in the white jersey standings for best young rider. While others were wilting and weakening, Jungels was holding his own.

Despite losing time on stage 19 he remained within the top 30 heading into the crucial and final mountain stage to Alpe d'Heuz. A 13th place that day was all Lefevere needed to see before deciding to make a move.

The day after the Tour reached Paris the Belgian team's boss sat down with Jungels and his agent and quickly made a proposal. Two years, an increased salary, and a plan to develop him; that was all the rider needed to hear. The contract that had been agreed in principle with Trek wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.

"The Alpe d'Huez stage showed that he had the potential of a three-week engine. That basically brought the interest from Etixx," McQuaid tells Cyclingnews.

"Patrick did his pitch, and I then sat down with Bob. There wasn't a massive amount of dialogue, there was a serious offer after the Tour and that's how it came about."

McQuaid went back to Trek shortly after meeting with Etixx, informing them that Jungels had been offered a contract from another team, although he admits that, "I probably didn't tell them which team."

 This was all before Trek had a deal in place with new sponsor Segafredo and, although they had money to invest, they were unable to match Etixx's firepower in the transfer market.

Trek manager Luca Guercilena, who has brought on a number of young riders at the team, is understood to have been hurt when he found out that Jungels was leaving, particularly given that he thought he and Jungels had both expressed the desire to continue the relationship back in June.

In August, when he knew Jungels was set to depart for another team, Guercilena told Cyclingnews, "It's a shame because we invested a lot in him since he was in the development team and we've sustained his growth for a number of years.

"In the last two years he was on a good contract with us but let's say we were at a point when we didn't see many results from him for a number of months. I wouldn't say the return we got back from him was what we expected but we're sad to see him go. He's made his choice and we wish him the best of luck."

Trek, of course, had an inkling that Jungels would leave for Etixx. After the Tour, he would go on to race once more for the team, at the Clásica San Sebastián at the start of August, where he finished an anonymous 80th.

Within a matter days the news was confirmed as the press release from Etixx, announcing the Luxembourger's arrival, landed in their inbox. 

Related Articles

Back to top