Bob Jungels - The Vuelta’s dark horse
The last Grand Tour of the season is just days away and the circus is already assembling in Nîmes, France, for the technical team time trial before the Vuelta heads into Spain for the race proper. Specialized is once more rolling with Bora-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step Floors, and both teams are stacked with talent. At Quick-Step, Bob Jungels heads a strong and youthful division of the Belgian superteam, which also includes French rouleur, Julian Alaphilippe, and Spanish climbing super star, David de la Cruz. Here’s why Jungels, the Luxembourg national champion, could be the dark horse of the race, along to spoil the party for more seasoned favourites.
Conqueror of Italy
The 24-year-old from Luxembourg has twice ridden himself into the Giro d’Italia’s white jersey for the best young rider. He did so this year with next to no support from his team, with most of the squad being used in support of Colombian sprint sensation, Fernando Gaviria. The team came away with two jerseys and five stage wins, one of those taken by Jungels himself, who conquered all his GC rivals on the road into Bergamo. He has proven himself time and time again to be a strongh (if still developing) climber and a stellar time triallist.
Race against the clock
Grand Tours in modern cycling hinge as much on time trials as they do on summit finishes, if not more. Both the 2017 Giro and Tour de France were won by erstwhile time trial specialists in the shapes of Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome. The former was able to prop up his comparatively weak (when pitched against fellow GC riders) climbing ability with his formidable time trial and Bob Jungels has much the same bag of tricks. Indeed, the finale of the Giro played out in almost identical fashion for Dumoulin and Jungels, both of whom had relinquished their leader’s jerseys to better climbers, only to destroy the opposition in the Milan time trial. Though this year’s Vuelta has a terrifying nine mountain finishes, there is one team TT and a single, daunting, 42km individual test. If Jungels can avoid losing too much time in the mountains, he has a real chance of taking the next big step in his career.
Every member of the team joining Jungels in Nîmes this weekend is more than capable of taking stage honours themselves, but if they all work for our young champion, we could see the advent of a new GC super team on our hands. Quick-Step have long been considered as such: a team built around one-day races, Spring Classics, team time trial World Championships, sprints… But neither of their big name sprinters takes the start in French territory, so it’s all for one.
Be more Bob
Bob Jungels is a hard man to hate. His spirit, grit and playfulness have made an impression on commentators and fans alike. That’s not to mention the fact that he’s brought his striking Luxembourg champ’s jersey to the WorldTour peloton for a number of years, marking him out as some sort of cycling style icon. He’s always quick to praise his team, or ‘Wolfpack’, and clearly just loves to ride his bike. Some of his fellow riders could take a leaf out of his book.
We really don’t have long to wait now before the Vuelta begins to unfurl itself. It’s impossible to narrow down to a few key stages given the sheer number of summit finishes, but look out for Jungels and Quick-Step on the first day’s team time trial, the stage 16 ITT, and the first real climbing test on stage 11’s first high mountain summit finish. Finally, if you have been inspired to emulate your heroes, or to invest in a bit of performance equipment to maximise your own potential, take a look at some of the best road biking kit we can provide.
Image Credit - TDW Sport
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