The 2017 season was a breakthrough year for Julian Alaphilippe with a Vuelta a Espana stage win and Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia podiums. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Frenchman after a knee injury saw him miss three major targets - the Ardennes, Tour of California and the Tour de France.
After overcoming his knee injury during the summer, Alaphilippe enjoyed a strong finale to the year with his Vuelta win, 10th at Worlds, and second at Il Lombardia. Fourth overall and the young rider jersey at the Tour of Guangxi capped it all off and helped to erase some of the painful memories from the spring.
"In the end it was a really nice experience," Alaphilippe told Cyclingnews after collecting his final white jersey of the race. "We had a really great week with the team. Fernando [ed. Gaviria] was incredible, and we did a great job altogether, and voila, at the end it was a really great week. I am happy to finish the season in this way, and I am already looking forward to next season."
As well as a personal success for Alaphilippe - fourth place on the Queen stage to Nogla sealed his overall position - Quick-Step Floors also cleaned up in the stages. Gaviria won four of the five stages and was a narrow second on another. While the Colombian hesitated in stating whether he'll be a returning rider for future editions of the race, Alaphilippe was full of praise for the inaugural event.
"It is a good race for me, a one-week stage race like this, which is hard but not so hard. I finished fourth in the GC and I think I can come back and expect a better result," he said.
Alaphilippe was also the main attraction for the large crowds at the conclusion of each stage. A regular feature of the podium celebrations to collect the young rider jersey, Alaphilippe was loudly cheered each time the race announcers introduced him as 'Julian Alaphilippo' in Chinese.
With his third top-five WorldTour race result in the pocket for 2017, and his third young rider prize after Abu Dhabi Tour and Paris-Nice, and the Chinese fans on his side, Alaphilippe will now take a break before recharging for 2018.
"I will take time for a holiday, and we will see after. I don't think about tomorrow now," he said in conclusion.
Guangxi rounded off a superb run of form for Alaphilippe that started back at the Vuelta a Espana in August. With his results in China, he has laid the platform for a big 2018 with the added benefit of the 'Alaphilippo' Chinese supporters club to cheer him on.
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