Chris Horner's last-minute withdrawal from RadioShack Leopard's Amgen Tour of California roster may have helped create cycling's own version of the "Odd Couple", as 41-year-old Jens Voigt will now be rooming with 20-year-old neo pro Bob Jungels throughout the eight-day race.
"Together we're 31," Voigt told Cyclingnews Friday after the opening press conference. "So that's a good age for a cyclist. It's funny how he sometimes reminds me of my son, because my son is turning 18 this year. [Jungels] is only like 2 ½ years older. He's actually closer to my son than to myself, so I want to believe it keeps me young."
As far as Jungels is concerned, the two teammates may be separated by more than two decades, but Voigt's often-times playful attitude helps bring them together.
"I feel pretty comfortable with him because he's over 40 years old, but in his head he's like 25," Jungels said. "So it's pretty cool. We talk a lot together, and if I have any questions he's always there answering everything you ask him, and that's just great to have someone with you who has so much experience. It's kind of relaxing. You feel comfortable and secure, and I think it helps you for the races also. You have no stress or no pressure, and he confirms that."
Jungels comes to California for the first time after having already won his first pro race this year, the UCI 1.1 GP Nobili Rubinetterie in Italy. He also ran second during the time trial stage of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe in France, finished sixth during the stage 6 time trial at the Tour of the Med and was seventh during stage 2 of the Criterium International.
"For the whole year I have no pressure at all," Jungels said of his position within the team. "At the beginning of the year I said, 'OK, my big goal is just to get as much experience as possible'. Now I already have one win and a second place, so I'm really happy. For the rest it's just a bonus if I can get more results."
The promising rider from Luxembourg came to the WorldTour this year from Radioshack Leopard's development program, the Continental-ranked Leopard-Trek team. As a 19-year-old development rider last season, Jungels won the Paris-Roubaix espoirs race and claimed the overall win at le Triptyque Monts et Chateau. He won the individual time trial and the overall at the 63rd Fleche du Sud, as well as the Luxembourg national time trial championship. He was also second in the time trial at the European Cycling Championships.
The power rider who excels at the race against the clock would like to collect some "bonus" results in California this week, but he's also realistic about the competition.
"I will try to follow in the mountains, and maybe in the time trial I can make a good result," he said. "We had a similar [time trial course] at the beginning of the year in France, so I know a little bit where I am standing, but I have no pressure. I just go.
"But I think there are a lot of strong riders from strong teams here," Jungels continued. "So I think first of all, we have no real leader for the team, so it's pretty open for us and we can try something. Everybody can do something. Of course, I would be really happy [to get a good result], but I'm there for the team also. For me, it's not just the victory that counts, but if I can show myself a little bit and show my skills a little bit, that would be nice for me."
Voigt, winner of multiple stages in California and one of only a handful of riders who will have competed in all eight editions of the race, is also hoping his young protege can show himself and grab some spotlight this week.
"He's a pretty good time trialer," Voigt said. "He's young and he's hungry, so I believe he's going to create some attention."
Starting Sunday, Jungels will have eight days to do just that. In the meantime, he's simply trying to relax and enjoy his first trip to the US.
"California is a different mentality," he said from the team hotel in Escondido. "It's so much more relaxed than in Europe, and now with the good weather, it's amazing. The landscapes when we went training are just awesome. We rode the first stage, and in the hills it's really beautiful. I like the lifestyle, even if it's really different than Europe."
And what is the Luxembourger's first impression of the Golden State?
"Everything is a lot bigger," he said. "If you go from the cups in McDonald's or Starbucks and until the roads. Everything is just bigger. And the people have been just so friendly and great, we're having a good time."