Jungels to continue combining cobbled Classics with Grand Tour ambitions

Luxembourg national champion maintains broad focus despite Giro d'Italia setback

Bob Jungels (Deceunink-QuickStep) will continue with his twin objectives of shining in the cobbled Classics and then aiming at the GC in Grand Tours at least for another year, despite his difficulties in the Giro d'Italia this May.

Riders like Sean Kelly were able to meld the two specialities well in the 1980s, but since then few pros have followed the Irish star's footsteps and fewer still have succeeded.

Double Tour of Flanders winner Stijn Devolder, who briefly claimed the leadership of the 2007 Vuelta a España, is a notable example of a Classics racer who tried and failed to combine rattling over the cobbles in April with racing the high mountains in summer.

For Jungels, combining both is something he calls a "work in progress." Jungels has successfully combined the Ardennes with Grand Tour racing in the past, but he recognises that doing the cobbled Classics and the Grand Tours is another challenge altogether.

In 2018, Jungels claimed 11th at the Tour de France after winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and in 2017 he was 8th at the Giro d'Italia, having won the stage into Bergamo and earlier spending five days in the maglia rosa. The previous edition saw him finish 6th overall and wear pink for three days.

Having focused on the Ardennes Classics for the three previous years, Jungels was drafted into Deceuninck-QuickStep's cobbled Classics unit this spring. He enjoyed notable success in Flanders, taking a resounding triumph in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, as well as placing third in Dwars door Vlaanderen and fifth at the E3 BinckBank Classic.

Come the Giro, however, Jungels was well off the pace, despite placing a respectable 7th in the stage 9 time trial to San Marino. He finished 33rd overall in Verona, having never really been involved the GC battle at all.

So where does Jungels go from here? Crowned both Luxembourg time trial and road race national champion in June, the 26-year-old told Cyclingnews during the recent Tour of Pologne that he had no intention of changing his multi-pronged focus for now, and he will be looking at the Classics and GC for several years to come.

"Everyone had a bad one at times and I'm not a typical Grand Tour rider, it's still a work in progress," Jungels told Cyclingnews.

"Of course, in the next season we have to decide what's going to suit me best and maybe focus on the Classics and the one-week stage races, and then doing the Tour rather than the Giro for example. That way, I'd have more time to recover. We'd have to discuss it with the team and we'll see, but that's one possibility."

As for what went 'wrong' in the Giro, Jungels said that perhaps the recovery period after the Tour of Flanders – his last cobbled Classic, where he says he was "really tired" – did not work out as planned.

"We went to Sierra Nevada for an altitude training camp, plus I was trying to lose weight there for the Giro and it was maybe a bit too much for me," Jungels said. "I needed some more time to recover."

With so many options on the table – cobbled Classics, the Ardennes, week-long events and Grand Tours – Jungels recognises that it is hard for him to know which races could end up being his top priority. "Of course it is, but I'm still convinced it's possible to do the Classics and perform well in the Grand Tours."

He is wary about being described as a "pioneer" for combining the cobbled Classics and the Grand Tours GCs, pointing to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) as one possible example of a rider who combined GC ambitions in three-week stage races and the Ardennes Classics.

"Whether, in the long-term, I keep on going for GC or not, we'll see. But I definitely have an eye on the one-day races and week-long stage races like this [the Tour de Pologne – ed.] are very interesting as well."

After Pologne, Jungels will be targeting the Worlds and the Italian late-season Classics and with that in mind he's racing the BinckBank Tour "which is a race that should suit me very well, particularly as it ends with a Flemish Classics-style stage and a time trial. Then after a short break I'll be going to the GP Plouay, the Tour of Slovakia and the Worlds."

As for the Worlds road race race course itself, Jungels said he hasn't yet previewed the route. "I haven't done any recon, but I've heard it's kind of like the Ardennes, which would suit me. That kind of length is always a challenge at the end of the season, so I want to get to the Worlds as fresh as possible."

Deceuninck-QuickStep director Brian Holm told Cyclingnews that he believes Jungles has had a good season, despite his performance at the Giro. "Nobody can say he did a good Giro. It was disappointing, but overall he's had a great season, nobody can complain about that either. People go on and off, and of course we expected a bit more, but I think the good thing with the team is we'll stick to the plan and focus on the Worlds.

"He did very well in the cobbled Classics this year, he got his win last year in Liège, too, but sometimes you just don't win. Maybe next year he could go back to the GC for the Tour or go for stages there and be a domestique the rest of the time. We'll see."

As Jungels himself says, it's a work in progress.

 

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