We previously wrote about how the top riders at the Tour de Suisse were forced to drop after testing positive for COVID-19, leading to race results that nobody could have expected. The win was bittersweet for those that made it to the podium. Fast forward to the Tour de France and the same protocols are in place, those that test positive will have to drop the event. One of the most recent stage winners was almost forced to drop after testing positive before the grand depart.
Flashback to Bob Jungels after a 2018 victory.
Bob Jungels, Luxembourg rider of AG2R Citroën Team, tested positive for the virus the day prior to the grand departure in Copenhagen on July 1; however, a panel of doctors looked at his sample and deemed his viral load was low enough for him to ride. In other words, doctors determined Jungels was not contagious to others. Fast-forward to the ninth stage on July 10, and Jungels is the first to cross the line during the ninth stage.
Jungels stormed to victory on the first Alpine finish of the Tour de France, while Tadej Pogačar retained the leader’s yellow jersey.
The 29-year-old Luxembourger set off on his own with almost 65 kilometers (40 miles) remaining of the mountainous 193-kilometer (120-mile) route from Aigle in Switzerland to the ski resort of Châtel les Portes du Soleil. He had time to sit up and stretch out his arms before punching the air in delight as he crossed the line 22 seconds ahead of Jonathan Castroviejo and 26 ahead of Carlos Verona.
The victory crowns a comeback for Jungels following a year to forget. He struggled with back problems and then a head injury suffered in a crash at the beginning of last season and then missed the Tour and the Summer Olympics after undergoing surgery.
It appears that Jungels is fully making his comeback after successful surgeries for iliac endofibrosis. Jungels was one of the best all-rounders in the bunch when racing with Quick-Step at the end of last decade only to fade from view when the problem in his femur flared up. The 29-year-old believes two operations in the fall have put him right and ready to return to the top.
“On the values that we see in training, I am quite optimistic for this new chapter,” Jungels previously told L’Essentiel. “It gives a lot of confidence for the new season. For me and for the team, it was important to see that the problem was solved."
The Luxembourg rider has remained strong after surgery, with excellent performances at Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Tour of Flanders.
Jungels' ambitions for future events are to be confirmed, but he is hopeful of a strong showing off the back of training in Gran Canaria. His 2018 Liege triumph provides extra motivation.
"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," said Jungels of his previous success. "Before the Ardennes Classics, I’d enjoyed a good 10 days of training in Mallorca, too. It’s hilly and I felt strong." Jungels is impressed with his top-tier Campagnolo equipment: "I’m really happy with the Super Record EPS 12-speed groupset...It allows me to ride longer on the big ring without changing to the small ring."
By all accounts, it seems that Bob Jungels is back in action, and even more amazing is that the stage victory almost didn't happen, considering the tight regulations around the Grand Tour events.