Jungels returns to racing following the cobbled classics and an altitude training camp. This year he decided to skip the hilly Ardennes races to allow his body to recover from the punishing efforts at the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem.
Now, after finishing 11th in the Tour de France in 2018, Jungels could be in a position to challenge for a grand tour podium at the Giro. Jungels is predicting a fight during the three-week race.
“The Giro always has more action and is more aggressive than the Tour, you’ve seen it in the past years where it’s often decided in the last two to three days,” he told VeloNews.
“I don’t want to say the Giro and the Tour are completely different, they are both really hard races. The route is maybe even harder in the Giro some years, but the Tour has the whole hype around it, every team can feel that pressure and that’s what makes it so stressful every single day.”
Jungels’s progress at the Giro d’Italia could hinge on the race’s three individual time trials. The Luxembourger is one of the most versatile riders in the WorldTour peloton: he can ride cobblestones and attack on hilly terrain. He’s also one of the world’s top riders in the race against the clock. The Giro’s 58.5km of total time trial distance has lured other TT specialists this year, including Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).
The race kicks off Saturday in Bologna with an 8.2-kilometer time trial. After another week, it races to the Republic of San Marino with a 34.8-kilometer time trial. And June 2, it ends in Verona with a time trial.
“The first and second time trials are hard, which is good,” Jungels said. “Overall, I’m happy that the time trail is not dying in the grand tours.”
Jungels has turned heads at the Giro in years past, and in 2016 finished 6th place—a result that spoke to potential greatness at the three-week format. Yet he likely lacks the climbing prowess of the race’s top climbers, such as Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana). Jungels may have to carve out his time gaps in the individual time trials and hilly terrain, and then try to chase the climbers in the Giro’s punishing third week.
“With a sixth and an eighth already in the Giro [in 2016 and 2017]. I’m still far away from the win,” he added. “You never know how it’ll turn out, but I’m really motivated with the three time trials. I have to use those as an advantage compared to the pure climbers.”
Deceuninck-Quick-Step enter the race with dual objectives: Jungels for the overall and star sprinter Elia Vivani for stage wins. The duo lead Eros Capecchi, Mikkel Honoré, James Knox, Fabio Sabatini, Florian Sénéchal, and Pieter Serry.
Leadership in the race will mark another learning experience for the 26-year-old. This year Jungels showed he was capable of learning how to race—and win—on the cobblestones. Jungels won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and helped the team throughout the successful campaign. He closed the 2019 run with a 16th in the Tour of Flanders. The idea is that he could compete for the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix in the coming years before going to the grand tours.
“I am also growing, learning and processing. Being a grand tour riders is special and challenging. Maybe my physic is not perfect, but so far it’s been good with the results and that’s why I stick to it.”