Julian Alaphilippe will have worn the rainbow jersey for a year. The French tried to honor the champion’s jersey. Has he succeeded?
It was the jersey of his dreams. Solo winner last year at Imola, Julian Alaphilippe will have worn the prestigious tunic of the world champion for 12 months. At the time of putting his title back on the line, this Sunday on the Flandrian roads, against Wout van Aert and a pack of contenders, the Frenchman can look back on the past 12 months and say to himself that he has given everything, even if he has not achieved the best season of his career.
What curse? Alaphilippe only needed two races to win with his rainbow jersey. After a cursed Liège-Bastogne-Liège (he raised his arms too early, before being downgraded), the rider of the Deceuninck-Quick Step released his counter in the wake by winning the Flèche Brabançonne, ahead of Van der Poel and Cosnefroy. Despite everything, Alaphilippe admits that this iridescent tunic was heavy to wear, because of the attention he was receiving, and especially the extra pressure he put on himself.
Irreproachable. Alaphilippe, because it is his temperament, has been an actor in all the races where he has entered. He showed his world champion jersey on the classics, at the end of last year (because of the Covid) then this year, and of course on the Tour de France. He never spared his efforts, and never hid. “Being world champion was my biggest goal when I turned professional. In addition to conquering the jersey, I did my best to honor it, to make it shine. If I had lived a white season, inside, it would have been very difficult to live. There you go, I gave everything, everything I had to give ”, he confided on Saturday in the columns of L’Equipe.
Alaphilippe notched 3 successes in 2021, and 4 victories as world champion, adding the Flèche Brabançonne at the end of 2020. This may not seem like much, if we compare to his figures for 2018 and 2019 (12 victories each time) , and the Frenchman will undoubtedly regret his two missed opportunities on Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But he will have responded globally to major events: by inviting himself to the party on a Tirreno-Adriatico blasted by Van Aert, Van der Poel and Pogacar; by offering himself his favorite classic, the Flèche Wallonne, in front of Roglic; and by wearing the yellow jersey of the Tour de France for the third year in a row after his victory at Landerneau. He only kept the Yellow one day, which is a bit like his season, minimum service. But a minimum service according to Alaphilippe standards, that is to say very high-end.
“I would put myself 7/10, he said in L’Equipe. I could have won two stages in the Tour de France, but the one in Landerneau is worth five because it was so emotional, just a few days after becoming a dad, with the world champion’s jersey. Winning on the Tour is always special, moreover wearing the yellow jersey for the third year in a row. In the old days, when I watched the Tour on TV, I never imagined doing what I did. So I put myself 8/10 because I don’t want to be too hard on myself. “