GENT, Belgium (VN) — The Trek Factory Racing bus draws hundreds of fans and journalists during the Ardennes classics. Many ask, “How’s Fränk for Liège-Bastogne-Liège?” or “What about Andy’s knee?” Inside, though, a new Luxembourgish star is gaining attention: Bob Jungels.
“I can learn a lot from the Schleck brothers,” 21-year-old Jungels told VeloNews. “They know the Ardennes classics intimately. They’ve raced here many years and won, as well.”
Before turning professional in 2013, Jungels won the junior world time trial title, under-23 Paris-Roubaix, and the Flèche du Sud, which boasts Andy Schleck, Geraint Thomas, and Bradley Wiggins on its winners’ list.
Last year he sampled several races, including Paris-Roubaix alongside Fabian Cancellara.
“Yeah, but I learned last year that I go better on climbs. I go well in stage races, as well,” said Jungels. “I decided to do more stage races and the Ardennes for 2014. They suit me better. I feel more comfortable in these races. These are better races for me.”
As a neo-pro last year, he won the GP Nobili Rubinetterie, a stage in his home tour, and the national time trial and road race titles. In 2014 he has notched second in a stage of Paris-Nice behind Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) and finished the first two Ardennes classics, the Amstel Gold Race and the Flèche Wallonne.
“I’m gaining experience this year and I’m racing mostly WorldTour events. I had some good results; a win would be nice but in the end, it’s better just to progress,” Jungels said. “Luca Guercilena [team general manager] and the sports directors told me that was the main goal, getting experience, but keeping the winning spirit by trying to go for stage wins.”
Instead of France’s cobbles, Guercilena put Jungels on the Ardennes roster alongside Luxembourg’s best-known cyclists, Fränk and Andy Schleck.
Fränk was held up behind a crash three kilometers out Wednesday in the Flèche Wallonne, but will be back to lead the team Sunday in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Andy is having a more difficult time. He crashed in the Amstel Gold Race, injuring a knee, and did not finish Wednesday.
“It’s special to do these races for the first time. Amstel was the first time for me to race such a long and hard classic. It was such a nervous race, even if team BMC controlled it. In the last 30 kilometers, you are just tired and you didn’t know really why because you hadn’t done anything special,” Jungels said. “The directors, my teammates tell me that I need to do them a few times before I get a result. You have to know the roads. After that distance, after six hours, everyone is just tired. It’s a completely new experience for me.”
Jungels should keep gaining experience this year. Guercilena scheduled him for the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race in June and a grand tour. Though he could not confirm which one, the young Luxembourger might have a chance to race the Tour de France alongside his elder countrymen.