Bob Jungels’s win on the opening day of the Tour of Oman today was no fluke. The 23-year-old had targeted the stage before even arriving in Oman and, when his Etixx-QuickStep team checked the route yesterday, he knew he had what it took.
This morning in the team meeting he announced his intention to win, and knowing the final four kilometres were downhill, he asked the mechanic to fit a 55-tooth chainring to his bike.
Most professional cyclists at this standard are confident in their own ability, but not all get to show it, especially when, like Jungels, you are the new boy and second youngest.
Not noted for his climbing, the Luxembourg rider found himself cresting the final climb in company of the likes of Dan Martin and Vincenzo Nibali, before making full use of that massive gear descending to the victory.
“It’s a climb that suits me, it’s not too steep and Astana were setting a good pace,” he said at the finish. “I told the mechanics to put a 55 tooth [chainring] in front because I planned this attack for two days, even longer.”
Jungels is one of three newcomers to the team with a win this year. Dan Martin took a stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Marcel Kittel won two stages and the general classification in Dubai earlier this month. Martin was impressed with Jungels, but believes the team environment helps.
“He’s so talented and relatively young,” the Irishman explained. “He had the confidence this morning to say, ‘guys I’m going to this,’ and he did exactly what he said he was going to do. He won. That shows the atmosphere in this team, all the wins we’ve had, it just breeds confidence and we’re on a roll.”
Jungels agrees: “The atmosphere is great and you really see it’s a different style of racing,” he explained.
“There is a very high level in the team. If you look at Valencia for every stage we had somebody who cold win, and it is the same here. There’s always a really good reason to work and to be motivated at the start, and I think the style of riding suits me much better, being more aggressive in the race.”
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Though not anonymous at his previous team, Trek Factory Racing, it appears the style of racing and freedom to perform is helping Jungels.
“Maybe we were a GC team, maybe we had a different style of riding, but I was also not so confident,” he explained. “I have more confidence here I don’t know if it comes from the team or if it just because I am growing and I’m getting stronger.”
Despite a recent opportunity to win in Valencia, where he followed a race motorbike off course whilst leading, that confidence remains. However, it remains to be seen whether Jungels can maintain his lead, let alone limit his losses on Friday’s ascent of Green Mountain and win the red jersey he will wear tomorrow.