Alaphilippe downplays Tour of California ambitions

Last year's runner-up not prepared for GC fight

Julian Alaphilipe (Etixx-Quickstep) finished second at the Amgen Tour of California in 2015, but he returns in 2016 with few stated ambitions.

"I don't have GC plans for me," Alaphilippe said. "I'm here for a small break after Classics season. After Liège I do a little break before the rest of the season so it's a little different than last year for me."

Alaphilippe briefly took the GC lead at the Tour of California after winning stage 7 which finished at the top of Mt. Baldy. Alaphilippe lost the GC lead to Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) on the final day of racing by three seconds but finished second overall and went home with the Best Young Rider jersey.

Alaphilipe signed with Etixx-Quickstep in 2014 and quickly established himself at races like Volta a Catalunya and Tour de L'Ain, then in 2015 he was on the podium of Flèche Wallonne and Liège - Bastogne - Liège. His explosive style of riding after a hard day in the saddle was also evident on stage 3 of the 2015 Tour of California when he narrowly lost a sprint for second to Peter Sagan (Tinkoff). After last year's stage Alaphilipe was visibly excited with his finish.

"I finished right next to Peter Sagan, so I'm not disappointed," Alaphilipe said after the 2015 stage.

Alaphilipe's winter was hampered by a bout of mononucleosis, but he rebounded, finishing sixth at the Amstel Gold race and second at La Flèche Wallonne. After a successful spring he's approaching the Tour of California with a laid back but opportunistic mind set.

Tuesday's stage in Santa Barbara up Gibraltar Road, reminiscent of his 2015 Mt. Baldy victory, might have been a target for Alaphilipe but he's primarily focused on supporting the rest of his team.

"I only heard it is going to be a really hard climb," Alaphilipe said about stage 3. "It's long with 8 percent of rise or something like that. Its really something for real climbers, I will do my best."

Alaphilipe's relaxed attitude may just be masking his real ambitions. Alaphilipe won the first KOM on Tuesday showing his climbing legs are ready for action if needed. He eventually shuffled out of the early move on Tuesday but his form has not appeared to have eased up after a full Classics season.

The 23 year old Frenchman is taking this Tour of California day by day, but is ready if opportunity comes knocking.

"If I can ride good one stage it's alright but I'm not prepared for GC this year," Alaphilipe said. "We have a strong team so I think it will be good."

Alaphilipe rose to prominence on the cyclo-cross circuit finishing second in the 2010 UCI Junior Cyclo-cross World Championships but now is fully dedicated to his road racing career.

"I really like cyclo-cross," Alaphilipe said. "It's something that I really like but now I'm full focused on my road season. During the winter I do some cyclo-cross but not like before."

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