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AIGLE, Switzerland (VN) – It’s been a long road back for Bob Jungels but the 29-year-old is far from willing to throw in the towel as he continues to rebuild his career after a difficult few years.
The Ag2r-Citroën rider was diagnosed with arterial endofibrosis last year and underwent surgery to correct the issue. But the sad fact is that Jungels was probably suffering the debilitating effects of the health problem for a number of years before he finally received the correct diagnosis.
Now at least on the right path, Jungels has been racking up races and race miles throughout the spring and although he’s not yet at the level that saw him win Liège-Bastogne-Liège and finish in the top-10 at the Giro d’Italia twice, the rider is hopeful that he can get back to the front of races in the coming months.
“It’s far from my hopes,” he told VeloNews when asked about his first season back on track.
“At the beginning of the year, I talked about my desire to reach the front of the peloton again and be with the best guys. I just need to keep working for that but it takes a long time. It takes a long time for your body to readapt to those long-intensity efforts in races because I’ve not been there for a couple of years. You can sometimes forget that your body also adapts if it doesn’t go to these limits anymore.”
It has been a busy spring for Jungels, with two completed stage races and a string of one-day classics in an action-packed calendar.
Currently racing the Tour de Romandie, the all-rounder has been working for Ben O’Connor and the Australian’s GC ambition.
There is hope that after a break Jungels can move up another level at the Tour de Suisse, and then again at the Tour de France.
“I’m on my way back and I needed this period and I hope that after my break next week things will get better with the race rhythm,” he said.
Jungels has been through far more than just a physical ordeal. Several seasons without knowing the root of his decline left scars of a different kind, while the mental toil that he has been through has also given him an appreciation for those around him.
There was a time when everything came easy to Jungels, whether it was through the one-day area or stage racing format.
“I learned how to handle problems because before this I had no problems and everything was steadily improving in my career. Now for the last two or three years, I’ve been struggling. I don’t see why I can’t get back to my old level but I learned how to handle things if I have any problems in the future.”
“Mentally it was the hardest period of my life,” he said.
“It had an impact on everything from my sport, to my job and performances but also at home in my private life. It wasn’t easy because there were a lot of questions without answers and a lot of frustration. I didn’t really know what I was doing because there wasn’t a solution. Once we found the problem it wasn’t just a click and it was okay. It’s a long way back and I’m actually very grateful for the support from the team.”
It’s also a contract year for Jungels and after two years at AG2R it’s not clear what happens next. The team has stood by him throughout his health problems but at some point, both rider and team will need to discuss where things go from here.
For now, it’s just a matter of getting back up to speed over the coming months. Even if Jungels does face difficult questions over his next move in terms of contract talks he has the resolve and the maturity to take any issues in his stride.
“I’m 29 so I still think that I have a long time left in the sport. Now it’s still early in the season to talk about contracts for next year but I’m confident that I’ll have a job next year and the most important thing is that I prove to myself that I can get back.”