Julian Alaphilippe launches perfectly timed attack to win Stage 2 at Tour de France
France’s fastest showman on two wheels is back making a splash at the Tour de France and once again wearing the iconic yellow jersey.
Julian Alaphilippe, the rider who more than any other helped turn the 2019 edition into a thriller, again showered the Tour with his class and guile Sunday, poaching victory on Stage 2 in the picture-postcard Mediterranean city of Nice and taking the overall race lead.
A final burst of acceleration timed with precision enabled Alaphilippe to shake two pursuers and hold off the main pack of riders furiously gaining ground on the finishing straight.
Deprived of wins since his feats that enchanted French fans last summer, Alaphilippe kissed his finger and raised it to the sky as he crossed the line, a tribute to his father who died in June.
“I promised myself that I’d win for him,” Alaphilippe said after outsprinting Marc Hirschi and Adam Yates, who completed the podium.
“I hadn’t won a single race this year yet. But I’ve always remained serious with my training despite the difficult moments I went through. I dedicate this victory to my father
Highlights from Stage 2 of the Tour de France on Sunday.
The stage win, his fifth in four Tours, will anchor his status as a darling of French cycling fans, conquered by his thrilling riding at last year’s edition, when he held the race lead for 14 days.
He is now back in yellow, thanks to time bonuses picked up for winning the stage and on the final climb of the arduous day of riding through mountains north of Nice.
And while Alaphilippe is playing down any hope of winning the overall title in Paris in three weeks, he intends to cling to the coveted jersey for as long as he can.
“The yellow jersey has to be respected,” he said. “I will defend it with honor.”
Alaphilippe, however, insisted he did not enter the race to fight for the general classification. He has big ambitions for the one-day classics that will follow the Tour this autumn and does not want to burn all his energy during the grueling three-week race.
“We did not come here to win the Tour de France,” he said.
The Tour de France has finally set off from the Riviera city of Nice amid fears the race could be stopped well before it reaches Paris because of the coronavirus.
Alaphilippe launched the decisive move 13 kilometers (about eight miles) from the finish. Making the most of teammate Bob Jungels’ sustained pace in the Col des Quatre Chemins, the Frenchman placed a brutal acceleration to drop his rivals.
Hirschi was able to bridge the gap after a few hundred meters following the Frenchman’s attack and Yates made the junction with 11 kilometers (about seven miles) left. The trio of riders collaborated well to keep the peloton at bay until the red flame marking the final kilometer.
After adjusting his helmet and tightening his shoes to get ready for the sprint, Alaphilippe proved the fastest in a strong headwind.
“I asked my team to make the race hard,” he said. “There weren’t many riders left in the last climb. I gave it all. I had nothing to lose. This is the victory that I was missing. The yellow jersey is the ice on the cake.”
Overall, Alaphilippe has a four-second lead over Yates, with Hirschi in third place three seconds further back ahead of Monday’s hilly Stage 3 from Nice to Sisteron.
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