Stefan Küng – a star is born.
That will be the headline on at least one Swiss newspaper tomorrow. Only 22, in his first year as a pro, and BMC rider Stefan Küng has won his first WorldTour race. “Wunderbar!” is how the tall German-speaking Swiss described the sensation, and you don’t need to be German speaker to understand what he was driving at.
Küng, a former track pursuiter (and still an active track rider) was part of a four-rider breakaway on a foul day between La Neuveville and Fribourg and he rode away from his companions with 21km to go, holding off them (Jan Bakelants of AG2R and fellow new pro Bertjan Lindeman of LottoNL-Jumbo) as well as the Sky and Movistar-led peloton.
It was a hell of a ride for anyone and for a new pro, it was something extra. When he arrived in the press room, the Swiss press corps broke into warm applause.
It was particularly impressive, given that his gap over his former breakaway companions hovered around 20 seconds on straight roads where he was often visible. He’s been cycling for half of his life already and was riding for the BMC Under-23 development team for two years.
“Nobody in the family was sporting,” he explained, “but I always really liked riding my bike, and one day I asked my mum how you could enter races.
“She said I had to join a club. So she made me phone the club president and ask about racing — she made it clear it was up to me. I actually live close to (former Swiss pro) Alex Zulle’s old club, so I phoned up the president, joined the club and won the second race I rode. That was it.”
BMC knew it had a diamond in its hands – a time-trialling diamond formed on the track – and there are already hyperbolic and excited Swiss talking about ‘the next Fabian Cancellara,’ something Küng is having nothing to do with.
“All I want to do is concentrate on my career and stay focused,” he said. “I know it’s something that the media are keen to write, but it’s really not something I have thought about. All I know is that winning a WorldTour race in my first year is fantastic, quite incredible to me, to win a race with all these other great riders taking part is something extra.”
That BMC has confidence in the youngster is clear from the fact that it has selected him to ride the upcoming Giro. “It’s a great feeling to know that the team has that much confidence in me. With the team time trial in San Remo that’s something that I can do well, so I’m pleased to be included in the team.”
While any attempt to turn Küng into another Classic rider at this point in his career is hopelessly premature, on the basis of his Under-23 results as well as the manner in which he won in Romandie, it’s safe to say that we haven’t heard the last of him.
How far he will end up going? Who knows? But if he does turn out to be a Classics superstar, we shouldn’t be surprised.