Bob Jungels poised for breakout season

With an overall win at the Étoile de Bessèges and a strong Ruta del Sol time trial in the books, Bob Jungels looks set for a breakout year

UTRERA, Spain (VN) — There was a logjam at sign-on ahead of the start of stage 2 at the Ruta del Sol. All at once, featherweight mountain goats swarmed the podium area from BH, Caja Rural and Team Colombia. Standing tall like a lighthouse in the fog was Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing), the 6-foot-3 Luxembourger who came oh-so-close to taking the leader’s jersey Wednesday at the Ruta del Sol.

How close? Jungels just winced when he was asked the difference between him Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

“Ohhh, it was very small,” Jungels said with a laugh. “Point-zero three seconds.”

That translates to 0.03 seconds. That was the tiebreaker between Jungels and Contador after the Monday afternoon time trial at the Ruta del Sol. With that difference, Contador started Thursday’s second stage in the red leader’s jersey, and Jungels otherwise anonymously, except for his noticeable height among the tiny climbers.

“I am very satisfied with how I raced,” Jungels continued. “It would have been nice to have had the leader’s jersey, but I didn’t make any mistakes in the time trial. That’s the most important thing.”

If you haven’t heard much about the 22-year-old Jungels, expect to his name bubbling up in the results sheet this year. Already entering his third season at the WorldTour level, Jungels seems poised for big things. He’s a big, strong rider who can time trial well, defend in the mountains, and challenge in one-day classics.

When asked if Jungels could fight for one-week stage races at some point, Trek sport director Kim Andersen shook his head.

“Oh, he can do more than that,” Andersen said. “He’s a big talent. He’s learning quickly. He’s very strong. Who knows how far he can go.”

Jungels barnstormed into 2015, winning the Étoile de Bessèges earlier this month to open his account for his third elite pro season. He admitted the looming climbs on Friday and Saturday are “too hard” for him right now, he already has his sights on other targets.

“Paris-Nice and Critérium International are both races that are very good for me,” Jungels said. “They both have time trials, so I am preparing to go well in both of those.”

Trek brass is excited about Jungels’ potential. As an espoir, he notched some impressive results, including the 2012 Paris-Roubaix Espoirs and the Flèche du Sud, and he turned pro in 2013. He won the GP Nobili one-day semi-classic in Italy as well as the Luxembourg national TT and road race titles in his rookie season, and last year, although he rode discretely without any big wins, he picked up valuable experience at the WorldTour level, and started his first grand tour at the Vuelta (he did not start stage 19).

For 2015, Jungels said he’s either heading to the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España, but that still seems far away, at least from the crisp February morning in Spain.

“I am very excited about the season,” Jungels said as he picked his way through the mob of riders. “I hope to get some more wins.”