Jungels makes the double at the Nationals
The young Luxembourger was victorious on home turf and capped-off a strong Sunday for Etixx – Quick-Step.
Bob Jungels has successfully defended his road race national title, two days after doing the same thing in the individual time trial race. Held in-and-out the same town of Berbourg which hosted the ITT, on a 136km course, the race witnessed a crazy pace immediately after the start, as many riders were eager to book a place in the breakaway. Once a group got clear, the peloton started working together – unfazed by the difficult weather conditions – and reeled in the escapees just in time for the decisive phase of the race.
Inside the final 10 kilometers, Bob accelerated from the pack, in a move reminiscent of the one he pulled in stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia (on which he attacked and fought hard to keep the pink jersey), and forged a gap which proved to be insurmountable for the chasers. After defeating Alex Kirsch (Stölting Service Group) and Frank Schleck (Trek-Segafredo), thus achieving the double at the National Championships for the second season running, the 23-year-old sat down and talked about this performance, which he is sure will bode well ahead of his next appointment, scheduled in a few weeks' time.
"I am very happy with the win and with keeping this beautiful jersey. I love it and I love to wear the colours of my country. Today's race was really fast right from the gun and the wind and rain made it even more difficult. On the last lap, I attacked with 7 kilometers to go, because I felt that it was the best moment to do it and I was right, as I arrived solo at the finish line. Not only that this victory makes me happy, but it also gives me a timely boost of morale for my next race, the Tour de Pologne", said Bob Jungels, who so far this season has amassed three wins, three podiums and six top 10 placings.
Sunday was an action-packed day for Etixx – Quick-Step, as more than 20 of the team's riders were involved in National Championships races across Europe. One of these men was Gianluca Brambilla, who continued to display the strong form and consistency showcased in May, at the Giro d'Italia, this time on a 228-km long hilly course in Lombardy's Darfo Boario Terme.
The 28-year-old attacked on the last climb of the final lap and got a 80-meter gap on Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo), but was caught by his countryman on the descent and had to settle for second in the two-up sprint, his best result at the Nationals: "A few weeks ago I came here to check the parcours, so I accelerated on a section where I knew I could make the difference and then went full gas on the downhill. Unfortunately, Gatto was between me and the chasers and he acted as a reference point for them. Nizzolo came in my wheel just before the last kilometer and in that moment I realized it will be very hard to win against such a fast guy. Still, considering all, I must say it's a great result, which makes me happy."
One of our neo-pros, Laurens De Plus made himself noticed in the breakaway which came into the spotlight at the Belgian Championships right from the opening kilometers, after attacking in the final hour of racing and sparking a move which saw only Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) respond. In the end, the fast pace and punishin circuit of Les Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure took its toll on 20-year-old Laurens, as Gilbert and Wellens accelerated and opened a big advantage, before battling for the win, which eventually was nabbed by the former.
Best Etixx – Quick-Step rider on the day was Pieter Serry, in 6th position, whilst Laurens, even though he didn't came to the finish with the first chasing group, took a lot of positives out of the day: "I did a good race, but at one point I went over my limit and paid for this, but let's not forget that it was the first time I rode such a long race, of more than 230 kilometers, and I lacked the experience which would have helped me in the closing kilometers. But I'm happy with my race and with the trust of the team, and today shows me again that this is the right environment to develop. What I've learned here will help me for sure in the future."
Poised to make his Tour de France debut next week, Julian Alaphilippe was one of the protagonists in Vesoul, where he was helped by an incredible Maxime Bouet, who left everything on the road in the last 40 kilometers to help his teammate. On the last lap of the grueling circuit, Julian was part of a strong group, out of which three riders attacked, making it all the way to the finish, where Arthur Vichot (FDJ) took the win. Alaphilippe came home just 12 seconds later, after an aggressive and promising race, finishing 5th and showing the form is there for the Grande Boucle (2-24 July). Across the border, in Germany, Tony Martin was a key man for Marcel Kittel, who sprinted to third in the 216-km long race – behind André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Max Valscheid (Giant-Alpecin) – notching up his maiden career podium at the National Championships.
In the Czech Republic, the race was a wild one, with a plethora of attacks coming inside the final 50 kilometers, when the peloton disintegrated and just a handful of riders made it to the front group. Among them was also former champion Zdenek Stybar, who was gunning for his second title, following the one of 2014. The 30-year-old's main rival was Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff), who made his move in the last kilometers, just as the terrain was becoming tougher, and went on to take the victory. Zdenek came second on the day, just six seconds adrift, while Petr Vakoč – last season's winner – finished fourth, adding this strong result to the third place he got a few days ago, in the individual time trial.
"I expected the Nationals to be hard, but this year things were really tough and at one point I found myself outnumbered by the Tinkoff guys. I felt good, the shape is coming and this makes me happy for the second part of the season. Unfortunately, I had cramps and because of this I couldn't accelerate when Roman attacked. It's a pity, because the sprint was on cobbles and I was very confident in my chances", said Zdenek after concluding the 185-km race in Kyjov.
Finally, in Poland, where a 255km course awaited the peloton, Lukasz Wisniowski was in aggressive mode throughout the day, attacking on numerous occasions and covering several moves of his countrymen. A real powerhouse, who this season came runner-up in Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen and finished in the top 5 at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Lukasz kept his composure after Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) and Marek Rutkiewicz (Wibatech-Fuji) broke clear and didn't give up the fight. His mentality and strong legs helped the 24-year-old Pole slot into 4th place, less than two minutes down on Majka, thus nabbing his second top 10 of the week-end, following the one in the individual time trial.
Photo credit: ©Rom Helbach