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He missed out on the stage win, but Alaphilippe is showing his old class

He missed out on the stage win, but Alaphilippe is showing his old class

RSNplusLefebvre praises: “He works hard”

Written by Felix Mathis

Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal – Quick Step) in the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia 2024. | Photo: Cor Foss

May 9, 2024 | (rsn) – Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal – Quick Step) failed to pull off the really big coup in the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia on the white cobblestone roads of Tuscany. But the French former world champion showed on the way to Rapolano Terme that his form is finally moving in the right direction again after difficult years and difficult months recently. Accordingly, Alaphilippe felt somewhat disappointed after the stage ended, but on the other hand he was not completely sad.

“After the fall in Strade Bianche, it was a long way to get back to my highest level,” the 31-year-old said at the end. “But I'm getting close to it now. I'm very happy with my performance today.” Line in Eurosport microphone.

“At first I tried to get away a few times. But I quickly noticed that a lot of riders wanted to join the group. Then many teams tried to control the mountain, so it was difficult to attack. But the legs I was good, that's why I'm happy with my performance today, I did “Whatever I can.” ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Alaphilippe starts with the first important choice

Alaphilippe made the first important selection of the day 88 kilometers from the finish, well before the first gravel sector, and started a leading seven-man group. He then broke free 43km from the finish on the uphill gravel section from Bagnaia to Grotte alongside eventual winner Pelayo Sanchez (Movistar) and Australian champion Luke Blabb (Jaico-AlUla).

Luc Plab, Julian Alaphilippe and Pelayo Sanchez (hidden) took victory on the gravel sectors. | Photo: Cor Foss

From there, the trio rode together to the end, even if the three main performers of the day attacked each other and tried to distance themselves from time to time. In Rapolano Terme, Alaphilippe opened the race with a back-wheel drive 150 meters from the finish. But even though he had the shorter lane into the final right-hand turn, he was unable to keep Sanchez behind him in the duel of speed and had to settle for second place.

“A few kilometers before the attack, Luke and I had already discussed that we wanted to try to join a group together. Then he drove at full speed and was wearing pink at times. He was very enthusiastic and really strong. We got everything and the best won,” Alaphilippe summed up the race. In the separate group he concluded:

“The Giro is still long”

“I have to take the positivity with me. It was a difficult stage. I'm happy because I did everything I could. Of course I was hoping to win and now I'm second, but the Giro is still a long way off.”

In the three-way race to win the stage in Rapolano Terme, Pelayo Sanchez (Movistar) was stronger than Alaphilippe. | Photo: Cor Foss

In fact, the year in Australia did not start badly for the Frenchman. He came in sixth place at the Tour Down Under. But at the end of February, there was a public row with team boss Patrick Lefebvre, who criticized the former two-time world champion's lifestyle. Alaphilippe had hoped to be able to respond with a performance, but the start to the Classics did not go according to plan.

At Omloop Het Nieuwsblad he fell and surrendered, and a week later he also fell at Strade Bianche – with disastrous consequences, as he told us just six weeks later. In the fall in Tuscany he fractured the head of his fibula. However, he continued to drive in the following weeks, but was unable to achieve anything notable except for ninth place in Milan-Sanremo. Alaphilippe had no chance at the Tour of Flanders.

Romandy Prologue was the first indicator in the right direction

But the Frenchman appears to have returned to fitness in time for the Giro. His third place in the prologue of the Tour de Romandie on April 23 was a real exclamation point. Unfortunately, he was unable to repeat this performance over the next five days in Switzerland, but he was very motivated before the start of the Tour of Italy in Piedmont. The opening stage in particular should fit it perfectly in profile with the steep incline from San Vito at the end. However, there, Alaphilippe was unable to follow the in-form Tadej Pogacar and only crossed the finish line in 17th place.

Julian Alaphilippe showed the first signs of regaining his old fitness on the sixth stage of the Giro. | Photo: Cor Foss

Many people would have written him off for the rest of the Giro, but in Tuscany the Frenchman showed some of his old class again. Because even if there was no strength in the end to win the stage, the sequences of action and the tactical intelligence of the leading group showed that the old Alaphilippe, the two-time world champion from France, was there again.

Lefevere finally found positive words again

This not only gave him and his fans hope. Team boss Lefebvre finally spoke more positively and favorably about his big winner at Eurosport. “Unfortunately he didn't win, that would have been a big morale booster,” the Belgian said. “But he's working hard and the Giro is still going for more than two weeks. There will still be chances.” “He loves the course here. He's getting better every day and I hope he gets another chance because that's what he needs: a win!”

And after Thursday's performance, it finally seems possible again.