Bob Jungels (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) today became the first Luxembourger in 106 years to win a cobbled Classic when he triumphed at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
It completed a remarkable Opening Weekend for his team following on from Zdenek Stybar’s solo success at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. This time, it was Jungels’ time to shine, and the 26-year-old put in a excellent solo performance which landed what was arguably the most unexpected victory of his career, as he described it minutes after the crossing the finish line.
“Winning races like this is the hardest way to do it, but also really nice to look at. We had a plan today and we fulfilled it, but it’s a win I wasn’t expecting at all, as the original plan at the start of the classics campaign was to gain experience on the cobbles and adapt to the style of racing, which is so different and more nervous than that of the Ardennes races.”
The 71st Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne came to life on the Oude Kwaremont, where Belgian Champion Yves Lampaert and Zdenek Stybar blew the peloton to pieces and forced an important selection, which led to only 14 riders making the split and overhauling the seven-man breakaway ahead of the last three climbs. A strong contingent of Deceuninck – Quick-Step was present in the move and from there Jungels emerged on the Varent to forge a gap together with four other riders – Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale), Davide Ballerini (Astana), Magnus Cort (Astana) and Sebastian Langeveld (EF Education First)
The final circuit, which the riders had to cover twice, didn’t play into the escapees’ advantage due to the open roads and strong headwind, but that didn’t prevent Bob Jungels from attacking off the front with a shade under 17 kilometres left and going in full time trial mode, while from behind his teammates made sure of disrupting the chase, a more than welcome help for which the Luxembourger was full of praise: “The guys did an outstanding job protecting me from behind, we have a wonderful spirit in this team and it’s a real pleasure to be part of this squad.”
With one lap left, the peloton trailed the Liège–Bastogne–Liège reigning champion by half a minute, and despite having his advantage reduced to less than 20 seconds with two kilometres left, he managed to outlast the chase of the peloton, putting up a fierce resistance and crossing the line victorious, thus enhancing his burgeoning reputation of being one of the finest time trial specialists in the peloton.
“I knew it would be really close when we were in five, especially with the headwind, but I felt I was the strongest in the group and decided that I had to try something when the bunch was coming closer. I thought it was a bit of a mission impossible, but I always say that you have to listen to your gut and that’s what I did today and it paid off handsomely in the end”, concluded Jungels after helping Deceuninck – Quick-Step become the first team in 35 years to win both races of the Opening Weekend in the same season.