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"It has been a real tough few days, and today I showed, like I said, that I am still alive. We still made third and fourth in the stage so a good result for the team. This gives me a lot of motivation, for the next days, and I also hop...

Photo: Sirotti






10.09.2014 @ 20:22 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Having suffered from a saddle sore, Bob Jungels was close to abandoning the Vuelta a Espana but today he bounced back with a great ride in stage 17. The Luxembourger was pleased to show that he is still alive and is now optimistic for the final stages.


The 190.7-kilometer stage 17 was the last flat stage of this year’s Vuelta a España, and the final chance for the sprinters to make a stab for glory. This made it difficult for the day’s five-man breakaway to succeed, but it did not stop them from trying: when the escape molded at the stage’s start it was from Bob Jungels’ initial attack.


“I was actually surprised to be in the break since two days ago I was pretty close to going home," he said. "Even before the stage I was not sure if I could ride. I chose the good moment in the beginning to try something and we went away, but I was suffering with the saddle sore. We managed it well, we did not go full gas in the front, and the gap always stayed around two and half to three minutes.  The last 50kms – after the feed zone – we put the hammer down.  I tried a few times in the small climbs at the end but it was not enough to distance the other two. But today I am happy to show that I am still alive!”


The five riders swapped equal turns, but with the gap falling as crunch time began in the final kilometers the camaraderie ended. Attacks flew, shedding two men from the break, and Jungels continued to push on the small inclines to the end, but his two companions answered each time. 


With less than two kilometers to go their time out front was over. The three men valiantly tried to hold off the fast-charging peloton but the hungry sprinters’ teams were equally adamant for victory, and with the numbers and strength on their side it was a lopsided battle. 


Jungels' gallant effort in establishing the break and his attacks in the closing kilometers would garner him the combativty prize for the stage, a well-earned award for the 21-year old in his first Grand Tour show.


“I knew that I was not fastest in the sprint, so I needed to take my chances earlier," he said. "When the gap falls to two minutes it’s always a game in the end. We knew we had to go full gas on the small climbs because on the down hills the bunch is always faster. It was the only way to do it, and as we saw it was close in the end.”


However, with Bob back in the fold Trek Factory Racing was not finished. When the sprint kicked into action Jasper Stuyven was positioned perfectly, and Fabian Cancellara was crouching just behind, waiting to pounce if he could.


In the last meters only two were faster: John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) blazed to his fourth stage win ahead of Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge), who just edged his wheel past Cancellara for second. Stuyven followed in fourth.


“Today was a hard day for me – I did not feel good at all until the last 20kms when the legs finally came around," Stuyven said. "I was in the front with Fabian and Popo[vych] and I talked with Fabian to see what he wanted to do – if he wanted to try something. He told me he did not know, he was going to wait for the moment and for me to do my own sprint, and we will see at the end. 


"I was in the perfect position over the cobbled section thanks to Popo. I don’t’ think Orica or Giant had enough men to control the finale and that is why people came from behind. It was a little chaotic at the end – but then Fabian also came from behind. Maybe third and fourth does not look so good if you only see the result, but if you see the video you can see that Fabian [at the last moment] came from behind and I was already in front making my sprint. In the end we both tried [to win] in different ways.


"Hey, it’s my fourth fourth place if you include the TTT as well! I am still hoping to get a top three, it’s still not the podium, but it means more than a fourth.”


Before the stage began Trek Factory Racing lost the services of Haimar Zubeldia, who was a non-starter today. The popular Spaniard has been suffering from lymphangitis and bronchitis, which pushed him further and further down the GC each day, not a normal position for the strong climber who finished 8th overall at the Tour de France.


The team is down to seven riders losing Julian Arredondo earlier to fatigue, but don’t count out the young squad who today showed they have a lot of fight left, evident by the herculean effort of Jungels, who attacked to the bitter end despite enduring horrible pain of a saddle sore that has been plaguing him for days.


“Really my plan this morning was just to see if I could ride today," he said. "I have to say a big thanks to the team for helping me solve the problem with my saddle sore. It has been a real tough few days, and today I showed, like I said, that I am still alive. We still made third and fourth in the stage so a good result for the team. This gives me a lot of motivation, for the next days, and I also hope to keep going until the Worlds now.


“tI was the plan this morning that I’d break away. We rode well at the front, but when I heard that OPQS was coming in help to Giant at the head of the peloton with 67km to go, I realized it’d be hard to stay away.


"I’m happy to finish my first Grand Tour this way because I’ve encountered a lot of problems. The big crash before the team time trial made me suffer during the whole first week. Then I had a saddle sore. Now I’m ok even though I can feel the fatigue.


"I’ll do the three world championships after the Vuelta: the TTT with Trek Factory Racing, the ITT and the road race with Fränk Schleck and Ben Gastauer in the Luxembourger team.”



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