Alaphilippe continues upward trajectory at Tour de l'Ain

Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider could be a Classics contender in the making

When Dave Brailsford spoke a couple of days before the start of the Tour de France about his desire to win the race with a French rider, he said he’d been impressed by several very familiar names including Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet. Brailsford also mentioned another less renowned Frenchman who had caught his eye, and over the past few days Julian Alaphilippe has demonstrated why.

Hailing from St-Amand-Montrond, which claims to be the dead centre of France, Alaphilippe initially made a name for himself in cyclo-cross, winning a silver medal in the 2010 Junior World Championship and a bronze in the under-23 race in 2013. But his performances on the road had already caught the eye of Omega Pharma-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere, who brought the Frenchman into OPQS’s Etixx feeder team.

Following a stage victory at the Tour of Brittany last year, Lefevere immediately offered Alaphilippe a two-year deal with the WorldTour team, seeing the youngster as a potential Classics specialist in the making. Buoyed by the prospect of a rapid entry into the top ranks, Alaphilippe continued to impress, ending his 2013 season with a Tour de l’Avenir mountain summit victory ahead of Matej Mohoric and Adam Yates.

Alaphilippe’s small stature (173cm, 62kg) might suggest climbing is his forte, but his performances this season indicate his ability is much more wide-ranging. Second, third and fourth place finishes in bunch sprints at the Volta a Catalunya back in March demonstrate his rapid turn of finishing speed, which was again on show when he was edged out by Adam Blythe and Ben Swift at RideLondon on Sunday.

Currently lying second overall in the Tour de l’Ain, where he is sharing a room with Mark Cavendish, Alaphilippe is, according to French national coach Pierre-Yves Chatelon, a rider who “has a profile à la [Peter] Sagan. “He is very, very strong technically in ‘kamikaze’ finishes and on descents,” Chatelon explained to L’Équipe.

Alaphilippe says that the year he spent riding for the French army team before he joined Etixx both toughened him up and has helped to keep him grounded. “I’ve had an education based on hard work, I know that nothing comes easily,” he says, describing himself as “an attacker. Not the best on the climbs, or the sprints, but I try to defend myself everywhere.”

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