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Jungels doubles up for Deceuninck-QuickStep with Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne victory

Bob Jungels doubled up for Deceuninck-QuickStep on his Opening Weekend debut after a solo victory in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne followed Zdenek Stybar's win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad a day earlier.

The Luxembourg national champion - road race and time trial - came to the first cobbled races of 2019 with the intention of learning the ropes from his teammates in an experienced Classics squad with a view of eventually filling the void left by Niki Terpstra after his departure to Direct Energie in the off season.

A 16th place finish on Saturday likely would've sufficed for the debutant at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad but a strong showing as the race kicked off at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne brought Jungels back into contention after a split on the Kwaremont.

Another split soon after saw Jungels in a group of five riders leading and was held as the race came into the laps of Kuurne and Kortrijk. A late surge saw Jungels ride away solo and eventually finish 12 seconds ahead of the chasing peloton.

Speaking at the winner's press conference in Kuurne, Jungels said: "It's probably not one of the wins I was expecting at all. To be honest, I started this season with the ambition to get an introduction to the cobbled Classics and I had it yesterday.

"Today I had a good feeling, I was in a good group after the Kwaremont and I wanted to just put it [the pace] up and split the group up a bit on the next sector and suddenly there were only five of us left.

"I felt quite fast and that I was one of the strongest of the group so when the bunch started to get closer I knew I had to try something. To be honest, I thought it was going to be mission impossible with the headwind and still 20 kilometres remaining but yeah, it's been two very hard days for everyone, including the guys pulling behind. I think my teammates did a wonderful job protecting me from behind, it's a pleasure to be in this team and race here.

"There were two guys from Astana but [Magnus] Cort Nielsen was already in the earlier break so he probably had less energy. For the rest you get to know pretty quickly how the others are feeling turning their legs. My feeling was that [Sebastian] Langeveld would be the strongest with me and finally, like I always say, you have to listen to your gut and you try and you succeed or you don't."

Although new to these races, Jungels' talent has been showcased elsewhere in the WorldTour. Two top-ten placings on general classification at the Giro d'Italia in 2016 and 2017 were added to last season with an 11th place finish at the Tour de France, while a Monument in the form of the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège title further showcases the 26-year-old's ability, if there was any doubt.

A future in Flanders

Another Deceuninck-QuickStep rider in Philippe Gilbert has shown that an Ardennes Classics winner can transform into a cobbled Classic winner and although it'll be Jungels' first foray at the Tour of Flanders as a professional in a month's time, one wouldn't put a victory at De Ronde out of the realms of possibility for Jungels after today's showing.

"It's never too late for a change they say. I guess it's unusual but, in the end, I think I've experienced a bit more from the Flemish Classics or races as a very young rider, junior and under-23 so I know how to behave on the cobbles.

"In the end, it's hard to explain but we took that decision at the end of last year together with the team. Just looking at the profiles, the Tour of Flanders isn't so different from say Amstel Gold Race. It's a different type of racing and that's the thing I have to adapt myself to for the rest. I think I've proved today it's not impossible.

"Winning and losing can always be very close, I saw that yesterday when I wasn't very well placed on the Molenberg otherwise I might have been in the front group with [Zdenek] Stybar and been up there as well.

"I think, overall, it is possible because they're races with a duration of more than six hours so it's always a select group of riders, mostly, who make it to the final. It's going to be the first time this year for me [racing the Tour of Flanders] and hopefully one day I can raise my arms there in the Tour of Flanders as well."

Next week, Jungels heads to Paris-Nice before returning to Belgium for more debuts at De Panne, Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Tour of Flanders and then heading to the Ardennes to defend his Liège title. As far as learning the cobbled Classics goes, Jungels seems to be handling them in his stride. So far, so good.

"For me, I go to Paris-Nice next week and try to do a good GC as well. It's not always easy to make a choice but it's possible to combine quite a few things. This season is going to be an introductory year for me to the cobbled Classics and this weekend was supposed to be a learning weekend and it turned out not so bad."

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