It’s late July and on the edge of the idyllic Lake Como in Italy the Tour de France stage winner Bob Jungels has a career-defining decision to make. In front of him are two offers for 2023.
One is from his existing team AG2R Citroën, the team that signed him in 2021 and is hoping to extend for the next two years.
The second offer is from Bora-Hansgrohe for two initial years with the option of a third season under certain conditions and circumstances.
Jungels joined AG2R at the start of 2021 on a deal that looked set to give him the freedom and leadership options that he dearly craved. His former team, Quick-Step, had signed young sensation Remco Evenepoel, while Julian Alaphilippe had become a guaranteed leader at every race he lined up. Jungels, who had already won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and cracked the top-10 at two editions of the Giro needed a change of scenery.
Through bad luck and misfortune, Jungels’ trajectory at Vincent Lavenu’s team simply didn’t work out. Arterial endofibrosis and a resulting surgery effectively ended his 2021 campaign and saw him edge into the final year of his AG2R stint desperate for results and a way forward. His existing team was certainly not against re-signing the Luxembourg rider, even when his results were poor, but by early June Jungels hadn’t secured a top-10 in almost two years. Options weren’t exactly in abundance, it’s fair to say.
At the Tour de Romandie in April, the rider told Velonews: “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.”
At the same time, there was still hope within Jungels’ camp that a quick turnaround in form would result in interest from the transfer market. The rider certainly had no ill-feeling towards AG2R, and they had stood by him during his low points, but at 29 the all-rounder was heading into the most important contract phase of his career. At the very least he wanted options.
A solid sixth place at the Tour de Suisse certainly improved Jungels’ position. Not only did it guarantee him a spot at the Tour de France but it also demonstrated that he could still race at an elite level and be competitive. He took a win in the national time trial championships a few weeks later and slowly interest around the rider’s future began to perk up.
There had been rumors of possible interest from DSM but that was unfounded, however, EF Education- EasyPost did have very preliminary talks about a potential move. There’s a big difference between that and actually offering a contract but as the Tour de France progressed Bora-Hansgrohe began to come out of the woodwork.
The German squad was on the lookout for riders who could complement its engine room and GC cadre, and with Wilco Kelderman off to Jumbo-Visma and Felix Großschartner signing for UAE Team Emirates at the end of the season a spot or two had become available.
Jungels’ Tour de France stage win to Châtel les portes du Soleil saw that interest double down and it quickly became apparent that the rider would have two serious suitors throughout the summer.
In the end, Jungels’ decision came down to a number of factors. Bora-Hansgrohe has its future secure until at least 2027, while the team also works with Specialized — a brand that is synonymously seen by riders in the peloton as the leading bike supplier in the men’s WorldTour.
Not only that but the German team has a track record of improving and utilizing GC riders. In the last couple of years alone Jai Hindley, Aleksandr Vlasov, Sergio Higuita, and Kelderman have all been part of an improving GC contingent.
AG2R is a respectable team with talented riders and a solid management structure but anyone from the outside can see that they’re just a level below where Bora-Hansgrohe is right now.
At Bora-Hansgrohe, Jungels can continue where he left off in July and form part of the stage racing element of the team. He will not walk onto the team bus demanding leadership, he’s not the sort of rider who has ever done that, but from a personality perspective, a strategic analysis, and an equipment perspective this move makes perfect sense. Now in his prime years, Jungels is moving to a team that feels like a natural fit for both parties.