The 27-year-old Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider is one of the only three Luxembourgers to have triumphed at the prestigious Monument.
One of the most arduous races in the world, Liège–Bastogne–Liège is also cycling’s oldest Monument, having been organised for the first time in 1892, four years before the revival of the Olympic Games. Held over a distance of 250 kilometers and packing some 4000 vertical meters, “La Doyenne” is a race every climber and puncheur dreams of winning, although sometimes a rider that doesn’t fit the mold breaks the pattern.
It was the case in 2018, at the last edition that finished in the suburb of Ans, when Bob Jungels – then in his third year with the team – rode away from a star-studded field and held off the chase to add the prestigious Monument to his palmares and write a page of history for both his country and the team. Today, on the day that should have seen the 106th edition of Liège–Bastogne–Liège take place, Bob looked back on his triumph and talked of the race’s postponement until October.
Bob, what was your feeling before the race?
We were all so confident! After winning Flèche Wallonne with Julian, we were flying and we knew we could get a very good result also on Sunday. Ok, the race is unpredictable sometimes, but the whole team was determined to leave our mark on it and the spirits were really high as we made our way to the start line.
What was the plan?
Knowing that Julian could be in the mix, we wanted to make the race hard from the beginning, and after only 50 kilometers, Rémi started to push a hard tempo at the front, wearing down the peloton. Enric and Philippe also made the others suffer in the later part of the race, while my attack over the top of Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons was part of making the race harder. I didn’t expect to open a gap, but once I saw there was some daylight between me and the reduced bunch, I gave it a shot, knowing that it would put Julian in a perfect position in the chasing group.
And from that moment on you rode a 20km time trial all the way to the finish.
The longest 20 kilometers in my life, 20 kilometers full of adrenaline and hope. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was easy, because it definitely wasn’t, but as I had diamond legs on that day, the pain was bearable. Things became particularly hard only on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas, where I felt the steep gradient and Vanendert was closing in, but I knew that if I would make it over it still in the lead, then I’d have a chance to go all the way to the line. Truth being told, I began believing with only 300 meters to go, before the last corner in Ans.
Where you became just the third Luxembourger in history to win the race.
Liège–Bastogne–Liège is very special for us Luxembourgers, because it’s very close to the borders and every year lots of fans from my country come in huge numbers to watch it. It was the same in 2018 and knowing I’ve made my country proud on that day and earned my place on the winners’ list was wonderful.
A great week for the Wolfpack, with you and Julian delivering the team’s first ever victories at Liège–Bastogne–Liège and Flèche Wallonne.
It was only after the finish, as the guys congratulated me, that I found out it was the team’s first ever victory in “La Doyenne”. Julian and I are very good friends and to each win an Ardennes Classic in the space of just four days and share these special moments together is something that we’ll never forget.
All these memories and the prestige this race carries add to the sorrow of not having the race this month.
That’s so true. I wasn’t supposed to do the race this season, but it still feels strange, and that’s because we live in strange times. When you think about the bigger picture, cycling is a secondary issue, but it’s still sad knowing so many great races have been cancelled. On the other hand, one must keep the hope and it would be nice to have Liège-Bastogne- Liège in the autumn, I think it would add an extra charm, and who knows, maybe I’ll even be on the start line then. We now have a racing calendar, we know when all the major races will take place if things will return to normal in a couple of months’ time and that gives us an extra motivation to train for the day when we’ll finally be able to be back together on the road, doing what we love the most.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images