Julian Alaphilippe enjoyed a strong and versatile start to his 2021 season, climbing with the best on the Mont Ventoux and taking sprint bonuses on the final stage of Tour de La Provence to move ahead of Egan Bernal into second behind overall winner Ivan Sosa (Ineos Grenadiers).
The Frenchman told Cyclism'actu that he's satisfied with his performance in the race even though he missed out on taking any stage victories: he went on the attack in the opening stage and helped lead out Deceuninck-Quickstep teammate Davide Ballerini after being caught in the final kilometres. On the Mont Ventoux on the third stage, he stayed with Bernal until the final turn and, on the last stage took the first bonification sprint to nudge ahead of Bernal by one second.
"It's all started very well, it's a very nice return. We won two stages and the points jersey with Davide Ballerini and I finished second overall. It wasn't necessarily what I had imagined, but it's great.
"I'm very happy with my form, very happy with the Tour de La Provence in general, we really enjoyed ourselves with some great victories, we tried again on the last day and we can be satisfied with our week," said Alaphilippe after the finish of Sunday's stage.
The world champion has his sights now firmly set on an intense spring of racing that ends with Liège-Bastogne-Liège where last season he celebrated too soon and lost the Monument to Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) in the sprint and then was relegated for deviating from his line to fifth place.
Alaphilippe will hone his Classics form at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for the first time.
"Everything that happens now is going to be very important. I have a big program until Liège, there are only races that I like and where I am motivated, so I will give the maximum", he said.
"I'm more than satisfied with the condition, at the Ventoux I couldn't do much more. I was already super happy to be in this situation and I didn't finish far from the victory, so it bodes well for the future."
After the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the Frenchman will head to Italy for Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico before trying for his second victory in Milan-San Remo.
Then it's off to Belgium to have another crack at the race that ended his coronavirus pandemic-reshuffled 2020 season: the Tour of Flanders.
Last October Alaphilippe made the winning breakaway with eventual race winner Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) only to clip a motorbike and crash, suffering fractures to his right hand.
It was his first outing in the cobbled Classic and afterward said he couldn't stop thinking about what might have been. "It's left me wanting more, and I can already tell you that I want to return next year."
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