When Bob Jungels attacked at the top of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday he was partly inspired by the last Luxembourger to win the race back in 2009.
Andy Schleck’s victory in La Doyenne nine years ago bore an uncanny resemblance to Jungels’ on Sunday as the then 24-year-old Schleck attacked halfway up the same climb before powering away to win solo.
“Of course it was a big inspiration for me to see Andy winning the way he did,” Jungels told reporters after the race. “I didn’t speak to him in the last few weeks, but I had this race in mind for a while. Actually last evening we watched a few highlights of the last editions, especially the ones from the victories of Philippe [Gilbert] and Andy.”
The race is held in the Ardennes region of southern Belgium, and, as the name suggests, turns around in Bastogne, just a few kilometres from the Luxembourg border. That Jungels was wearing the national champion’s jersey added a special resonance for the 25-year-old.
“It’s the race the closest to Luxembourg and every year there are a lot of Luxembourgish fans,” the Quick-Step Floors rider continued. “I wasn’t here for the last two years so I was looking forward to be back on those roads, and if you have your friends and family on the roads it’s special, you hear them on small climbs, so it was a little bonus to me.”
Schleck’s 2009 result was partly due to the softening up his Saxo Bank team had done earlier in the race, again similar to the work Quick-Step did on Sunday, though in fact this work was not for Jungels.
The Belgian team began increasing the pressure on La Redoute, lifting the tempo before another former winner, Philippe Gilbert attacked early on La Roche-aux-Faucons. Team Sky’s Sergio Henao then had a dig before Jungels made his race winning move, though even that was designed to set up the win for Julian Alaphilippe.
The Frenchman had been the team’s leader and had proved his form with victory at La Flèche Wallonne last week, but was able to sit back as Jungels made his mark on the Monument.
“The main goal was of course our captain Julian, to see him in the best position, so it was important that he could stay behind the other leaders and they were forced to work.
“It came as a little bit of a surprise for me because I thought they were on my wheel, but the I heard on the radio ‘Go, go, go!’ and I just kept going and I didn’t see anyone until the line.”
The victory brings to a close a stellar spring campaign for Quick-Step. The team have dominated, notching up 27 wins so far in 2018, including another Monument, the Tour of Flanders, won by Niki Terpstra.
“It is more than a team, it is more like a family,” said Jungels when asked the secret of the team’s success. “What is good at Quick-Step is that we all have a chance, and every time we start a race we have four or five potential winners in the team, so we have different cards we can play.”