Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) soloed to victory at Liège–Bastogne–Liège today after attacking over the top of Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, the race’s penultimate hill, with 20 kilometres to go, and holding off a strong chasing group over the iconic Côte de Saint-Nicolas – “The Italian Climb” – and the uphill drag to the finish in the suburb of Ans.
“To be honest, this came as a surprise,” said Jungels. “I didn’t believe I could pull it off until I saw that nobody was behind me as I was approaching the finish line. Yesterday evening I watched together with Julian the 2011 edition, when the winning move was made on Roche-aux-Faucons, and I made my attack in the same place. I was waiting for this victory for a long time and to finally get it is pretty unreal.”
Quick-Step Floors helped the peloton keep the nine escapees who had broken clear from the start of the 258.5km-long race in check, before moving with the whole team at the front ahead of the iconic Côte de La Redoute. Enric Mas and Pieter Serry set a fierce tempo and reduced the escapees’ lead, who were left with only a minute in hand after the brutal climb. On the Côte de Roche-aux-Faucons, just as the gradient hit 12%, Philippe Gilbert launched an attacked which forced a response from the bunch that was rapidly reducing into a select group.
The move was nullified 500 metres from the top, with Bob Jungels accelerating before the end of the climb and sensing on the descent that he had opened a gap on the chasers, went into time trial mode and established a 50-second lead which proved more than enough despite a plethora of attacks launched from the first chasing group, that included also Julian Alaphilippe, the Flèche Wallonne victor, who brought to heel most of these actions.
Jungels’ stunning solo effort was rewarded with the biggest win of his career, as the 25-year-old crossed the finish line arms aloft, punching the air, becoming the second Luxembourger in history to win Liège–Bastogne–Liège with the national champion jersey on his shoulder, after Marcel Ernzer, in 1954.
More than half a minute behind – the biggest gap between first and second since 2009 – Michael Woods (EF Education First) and Romain Bardet (AG2R) rounded out the podium.
“We made the race hard from La Redoute, where we put the hammer down, before attacking with Phillipe on Roche-aux-Faucons. Then I made a move and seeing there was a small gap, I decided to use my rouleur abilities all the way to the finish, while at the same time carefully dosing my effort”, Jungels said, before explaining what this win means for him. “This is the most beautiful one-day race in the world, and to get the victory here, close to Luxembourg and in front of my family and fans, who all came to support me, it’s something I will always remember. To be sincere, it’s pretty unbelievable and I’ll need a few days to let everything sink in.”
After capping off what has been a stellar Classics campaign for Quick-Step Floors, Jungels underlined the team’s strength and unity: “We are more than a team. Quick-Step Floors is a family, we trust each other and everybody knows his own role and more importantly, gets a chance on the team, as we could see in many of this season’s races. We are always there for each other, fighting until the very end, and that is just one of the things that make this team great.”