Bob Jungels thought he would just be learning about the cobbled Classics, instead he is riding at the sharp end with Deceuninck-Quick-Step heading to his debut in the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.
The Luxembourger will not defend his 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège title with his 2019 cobbled Classics campaign and Giro d’Italia ride in May.
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“Before we started the classics campaign, I was looking at it as an introduction, but as it turned out, I performed quite well,” he told Cycling Weekly.
“It was a surprise on one hand, but on the other hand, I knew I had good condition. If the race is hard, always the strong riders come out on top. In the end, I’m very glad that I made this decision.”
Jungels won the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne early in March and helped position Zdeněk Štybar for his victory in E3 BinckBank Classic. The Classics super-team now selected him to race in its Tour of Flanders roster.
Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) and former Classics rider Tom Boonen named Jungels as one of the favourite to win on Sunday, when he will ride Flanders for the first time.
“Everything is possible in cycling, especially when you have a race around 250km. It’s always very unpredictable who’s coming out on top. Until now, I’ve come out well in long races, so we’ll see how it goes,” Jungels said.
“Of course, you have plenty things you have to learn, but I’ve learned quite a lot in the last weeks. I see myself going better and better from race to race.”
Deceuninck-Quick-Step have won nearly every one-day race this spring with Julian Alaphilippe in Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo and Zdeněk Štybar on the cobbles in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3. Jungels won the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with a solo attack.
“We’ve been very successful so far this spring. We have a strong team, like every year. Of course there’s some pressure but there’s plenty of other riders out there who’ve done great in the last races,” he continued. “I think it’s going to be an open [Flanders], I hope to be up there and maybe come with a surprise.”
The cobbled push and focus on the Giro d’Italia overall means Jungels will cut the Ardennes Classics from his programme. Already he was not going to race the Amstel Gold Race and the Flèche Wallonne, but now he will skip Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Last year, he won the race with a 19.6km solo attack.
“I’m really happy I took that decision together with the team to join the Flanders Classics team. It was a bit of a hard decision with Liège-Bastogne-Liège, winning last year, then leaving the Ardennes out for this year, but I’ve been successful in the Flanders Classics and I also feel very well on the cobbles in these races. I still have plenty of things to learn, but It’s coming with age.
“It gives you more time, my last Classic [is the] Tour of Flanders, so I have much more time to be ready for the Giro d’Italia, to do my altitude. Before it was always hard to combine being good in the classics and then the Giro. That’s definitely a good point about this race programme.”