Ahead of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, we catch up with 2018 winner and Campagnolo rider Bob Jungels.
“It’s been a helluva couple of years, but I’m on my way back,” says Jungels.
In 2018, Bob Jungels, who uses Campagnolo’s world-leading equipment whilst riding for the AG2R CITROËN TEAM, won Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The Luxembourg rider was in imperious form as he dominated the oldest of the five Monuments. Since that memorable April day, the 29-year-old’s endured a tough time due to a debilitating condition that was finally identified in 2021 as arterial endofibrosis.
He’s had surgery, remained strong and is returning to form. Here, we catch up with the charismatic Jungels ahead of La Doyenne (The Old Lady) to talk training, overcoming adversity and restricted bloodflow…!
Bob, thank you for your time. How’s your season been so far?
Recently, I’ve raced Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Tour of Flanders, and the form is coming back, though I’m coming from a long way back health-wise so I must have time and patience.
Still, races like Flanders are always a spectacle. You have the Kwaremont where thousands and thousands of spectators line the roadside, followed by the Paterberg soon after. But all those cobbled climbs have their own characteristics.
What are your ambitions for Liege-Bastogne-Liege?
I’ll be coming into the race off the back of a couple of weeks training in Gran Canaria so hopefully I’ll be in strong condition. It’s a busy time of the year. I’ll race Fleche Wallonne on the Wednesday [20th April], followed by a recon of the Liege course on the Friday and the race itself on the Sunday. Both races are close to Luxembourg so hopefully I’ll have a few supporters there.
As for my specific role, that’s to be confirmed. Hopefully my condition will be strong enough to have free rein as six-hour races suit me well. But we have a super-strong team including Benoit [Cosnefroy] who’s always in contention. We’ll wait and see but I’m confident I can be joint leader.
We know you’ve struggled for a couple of seasons because of what was eventually diagnosed as arterial endofibrosis. Tell us about the condition, please.
You have arteries that go into your legs and, if you imagine being on a bike, they’re where you bend your legs. Cycling is a relatively unnatural activity for your body, so where you bend your leg from the hips, scar tissue forms inside. After nearly 20 years of training, this can build up and prohibit bloodflow. Symptoms are fatigue and a loss of power, and I’ve required two surgeries in the hip section.
In all honesty, the past few years have been rough. I was relieved on diagnosis but it’s a long road back to peak form. That said, the winter training camps went well and I’ve endured no bad feelings where I’ve had surgery. But I can feel in myself that I haven’t been in these high, intensive zones for a fair while; my body’s struggling a little to recover when we hit race pace but it’ll get there with more and more VO2 efforts.
It’s an uncommon condition but it does happen. I know Pauline Ferrand-Prévot’s suffered from it and Stuart O’Grady back in the day. Tony Gallopin’s another.
Your 2018 Liege triumph must act as extra motivation. What do you remember about your victory?
As a team we’d already been successful at Fleche Wallonne so we had positivity on our side; victory at Fleche meant we all felt more relaxed going into Liege. Before the Ardennes Classics, I’d enjoyed a good 10 days of training in Mallorca, too. It’s hilly and I felt strong.
We had a strong plan for the race and over the course of the day I felt better and better. But it was a strange moment when, on the climb of the Roche-aux-Faucons, I heard on the radio, “Go go, go!” I opened up a gap and the competition never reeled me in.
It remains the best result of my career. It was a perfect day and one I hope to recreate.
The greatest, most reliable gear is so important in a brutal race like Liege-Bastogne-Liege. What are your impressions of your Campagnolo equipment?
I’m really happy with the Super Record EPS 12-speed groupset. It’s such a huge leap forward compared to mechanical. It’s easy to operate and use for all kinds of race situations. For Liege – in fact, for the majority of races during the season – I’ll use 54/30 upfront and 11-32 outback. It allows me to ride longer on the big ring without changing to the small ring.
I’m equally impressed with the Campagnolo wheels. At Liege, I’ll use the Bora Ultra WTO 45s, the tubeless version. They’re super-fast and super-reliable. We used them for the Flemish Classics – that’s how reliable they are. They’re also a lightweight wheel.
Campagnolo is a brand with a great history. The quality of their components is incredible. Myself and the team are very happy.
Finally, once Liege-Bastogne-Liege is finished, what does the rest of your season look like?
I’ll head straight to Switzerland for the Tour de Romandie. That’ll cap quite a few busy weeks but I’ll have a decent rest week after Romandie before heading to an altitude camp in Sierra Nevada. After that it’s probably the Tour du Suisse, the national championships and, all being well, the Tour de France.
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