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HARELBEKE, BELGIUM - MARCH 29: Bob Jungels of...

Jungels will not defend Liège-Bastogne-Liège title

A cobblestone campaign and Giro d'Italia start will force Bob Jungels to skip the Ardennes races

GENT, Belgium (VN) — Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick Step) will miss the chance to defend his Liège-Bastogne-Liège title later this month in order to prepare for the 2019 Giro d’Italia.

Jungels this season dedicated himself to Deceuninck-Quick Step’s cobbled campaign, winning Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and helping Zdenek Stybar win the E3 BinckBank Classic. On Sunday, he will race the Tour of Flanders for the first time.

The new cobbled push and a ride for the Giro d’Italia overall in May forced Jungles to sacrifice his Ardennes Classics campaign. Last year, he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège with a 19.6km solo attack.

“No. No,” Jungels told VeloNews when asked if he would race Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 28.

“Yeah, it was tough, to decide that. To just start with 80 percent of your condition is not good.”

Jungels gave some indication that it could be possible to squeeze in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but largely indicated that it would not happen.

In 2018, the Luxemburger rode all three Ardennes Classics – the Amstel Gold Race, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In 2019, he was due to race just the Liège-Bastogne-Liège after a heavy cobbled program.

Now, he could fit in an altitude camp and specific training. A trip to Italy is also on the planner to preview the three important time trials, at least the first two in Bologna and San Marino, to have a chance to win the Giro overall.

“After the Flanders the classics, a period of rest that’s needed. The last preparations for the Giro will start already. Which means altitude.

“That’s the downside of the program of this year, but I’m very glad so far with it,” Jungels said.

“I’m really happy I took that decision together with the team to join the Flanders classics team. It was a bit of a hard decision with Liège-Bastogne-Liège, winning last year, then leaving the Ardennes out for this year, but I’ve been successful in the Flanders classics and I also feel very well on the cobbles in these races. And there is still plenty of things to learn, but it’s coming with age.”

Jungles made the winning move with Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) and eventual winner Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) in Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen. With his “introduction” rides in this season, he has already earned himself status as one of the favorites for the Tour of Flanders.

“Before we started the classics campaign, I was thinking of it as an introduction, but as it turned out, I performed quite well,” he added.

“It was a surprise on one hand, but on the other hand, I had good condition. If the race is hard, always the strong riders come out on top. in the end, I’m glad I made this team.”

Liège-Bastogne-Liège ends with a new flat final in the center of Liège this year. The race typically suites grand tour type riders and climbers, but this year could swing in favor of riders like Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). Jungels will miss a chance to ride with one on his back but looked at the bright side.

“It gives you more time, my last classic [will be] the Tour of Flanders, so I have much more time to be ready for the Giro to do my altitude,” he continued. “Before it was always hard to combine being good in Liège and then the Giro. That’s definitely a good point about this race program.”