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Bob Jungels finds more leadership chances with move to Ag2r-Citroën

Luxembourger putting Ardennes and one-week stage races at center of ambitions, but vows to return to the Tour of Flanders.

Bob Jungels leaves behind a very crowded Deceuninck-Quick-Step team to join a wide-open Ag2r-Citroën squad for 2021.

At the Belgian squad, he was lined up behind a slate of superstars in just about every race he would want to contest. In contrast, the French WorldTour team is in rebuilding mode, and one of the key blocks for the team will be the 28-year-old Luxembourg all-rounder.

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“I was looking for an opportunity to be a leader on certain races. My ambitions are always quite high,” Jungels said Tuesday. “I feel more like a leader here. They lost Romain [Bardet] and [Pierre] Latour. They were the leaders the last couple of years here, and they were looking for someone to replace them. I am more than happy to take that role.”

Jungels could read the writing on the wall at Quick-Step, where riders like Julian Alaphilippe and Remco Evenepoel are first in line. The arrival of BMC bikes, as well as new co-sponsor Citroën also helped convince Jungels to join on a two-year deal with the long-running French team.

“I feel more like a leader here,” he told reporters in a video call. “Also because there are fewer riders here for the moment that have won the same races that I have won.”

Entering his ninth season as a WorldTour-level pro, Jungels knows what he’s good at and what he wants to do. Right now, that means targeting one-week stage races and the Ardennes classics. He’s penciled in Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya as early-season targets before diving headlong into the hilly northern classics of Belgium and the Netherlands.

His highly promising excursion into the cobblestoned classics is on hold, at least for the short-term. In 2019, he skipped the Ardennes and lit up the northern classics instead, winning Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, hitting the podium with third at Dwars door Vlaanderen, and attacking during the Tour of Flanders.

Right now, he won’t return to Flanders but said he’d raise his hand later this spring if the team needs him.

“It’s always nice to know if you can do it. I have the ability to perform well in Flanders classic,” he said. “I really want to compete one day again in Flanders. If the team needs me for the northern classics, of course, I will go. The team here has a very solid for the spring classics.

“Two years ago, I did too much, with the Flemish classics and then the Giro,” he continued. “Planning-wise, it’s much easier to have a solid schedule and not do too many races. The combo of GC in stage races and the Ardennes is more logical right now than the Flemish classics.”

Jungels, twice in the top-10 overall, still has not given up on chasing grand tours. He admits he would need a course packed with time trials and one light on climbing kilometers to have real opportunities for a grand tour podium. Instead, he will put a big focus on trying to knock off some of the important one-week stage races on the WorldTour calendar.

For 2021, he will use the Tour de France as a runway for the Olympic Games. Luxembourg has yet to qualify a spot for the time trial, meaning that Jungels will only have a chance at a medal in Tokyo.

Like everyone else in the peloton, he’s hoping that the racing season can unfold without too many disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Jungels is at a team camp in Spain before heading to an altitude stint in Spain’s Sierra Nevada before debuting at Ruta del Sol in February. Or at least that’s what he’s hoping for.

“It’s a very strange feeling, to be honest,” Jungels said. “The feeling is the same, like before the first lockdown last year. Everyone is preparing as if races would start soon, and we hope that races will start soon. Everyone would be happy if we have a more or less normal season. If it’s realistic or not, that’s another question. It’s a very confusing and difficult time now for riders and teams.”

Preliminary calendar for Bob Jungels in 2021

Ruta del Sol

Paris-Nice

Volta a Catalunya

Ardennes classics (Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège)

Critérium due Dauphiné or Tour de Suisse

Tour de France

Olympic Games