Bob Jungels displayed his considerable talents across all terrains during his time in the junior and under-23 ranks, but the WorldTour calls for a greater degree of specialization. In his second year at the highest level, therefore, the Trek Factory Racing rider will focus his energies on shorter stage races and the Ardennes classics.
Winner of the under-23 Paris-Roubaix in 2012, Jungels’ reputation was such that he was called up to RadioShack-Leopard’s squad for the Hell of the North during his first professional season. In 2014, however, he will eschew the cobbles in order to continue his development in the hills.
“I think at junior and under-23 level you can win mountain stages and Paris-Roubaix, but this is a different world. You don’t do that here, it’s impossible,” Jungels told Cyclingnews. “For me, maybe now if I go more to the stage races, and the Ardennes classics, then it’s easier to come back to Flanders and Roubaix than the other way around. I always felt good in the time trials and I saw last year that I could do the mountains, so I’ll give it a try and see how it works out. After that, then yeah, why not come back to Flanders and Roubaix for sure.”
After learning in the court of Fabian Cancellara at Paris-Roubaix last year – “For me it was just impressive how relaxed they were, they managed the pressure so well,” he said of the classics squad – Jungels’ 2014 racing programme will see him race regularly alongside Andy Schleck, Fränk Schleck and Laurent Didier as part of a Luxembourgish unit under the supervision of Kim Andersen.
“We train pretty much every day together and that’s good. If you do the same races, you come home at the same, you have the same recovery, and that’s very good because you can work together as a team,” said Jungels, who is particularly close to Didier. “Laurent’s father has always been my coach on the Luxembourgish team, so I’ve known him for a very long time and it’s great to be racing with him. It’s just nice.”
Jungels was the most successful Luxembourgish rider of 2013, and dominated the national championships in June for good measure, but he is adamant that Andy Schleck can regain his former level after two turbulent seasons marked by injury and low morale, particularly given the return of his brother Fränk from suspension.
“After an injury like he [Schleck] had, it’s really hard to come back, physically and mentally too,” Jungels said. “I saw him last year already really motivated for the races and after such a long break, he just missed the pace. But I think he got it back now with the season he had. I can see a big motivation. I really think he’s going to come back.
“For him it’s really important to have Fränk with him because there are situations in races where you need the confidence of someone else. And if you have it, nobody can give it to you like your brother.”
Jungels will begin his 2014 campaign at the Dubai Tour and the Tour of the Mediterranean, before linking up with the Schleck brothers to ride Paris-Nice, Critérium International and the Tour of the Basque Country in the run-up to the Ardennes classics.
“I think my main goal is to learn more about these races. It’s much more about recovery afterwards and how to behave between the races,” said Jungels. “I think the main target is getting more experience but I’m going to do some really nice races like Paris-Nice and Criterium International, so it’s a really nice programme but it’s another step up, another level.”
After claiming four victories during his first year as a professional, including a memorable solo effort to win the GP Nobili just weeks into the season, expectations are high as the 21-year-old Jungels enters 2014, but he warned that it would be foolish to become fixated with matching the same totals of wins in his sophomore year.
“It’s not good when you say ‘I want to win ten races this year’ or whatever,” Jungels said. “Ok, I won four races in my first year but it’s possible that I could improve in 2014 but not have the same number of victories. So I’m just going to try and get some good results.”
In spite of Jungels’ tender years, 2014 could also bring a grand tour debut. With the Schleck brothers’ seasons focused on the Tour de France, it is tempting to project a berth at the Grande Boucle for Jungels, but his preference would be to line up at the Vuelta a España in August.
“I’m likely to be in a grand tour. It depends a little bit on how my spring goes, but I will see,” he said. “I think the Vuelta could be nice as a first step. It could be something good. We saw this year that Warren Barguil won two stages and he’s my age, so I think it’s a good race for young riders just because maybe you don’t have that pressure of the Tour and the Giro.”
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.